Charles Neblett

Activist and Organizer

Impacted at the age of 15 by the death of Emmett Till, and how openly the murderers spoke of the murder, Charles Neblett has been in the Civil Rights/Freedom struggle the majority of his life as a community organizer and charter member of the S.N.C.C. (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) Freedom Singers. During his time at Southern Illinois University, Dr. Neblett was influential in building a bridge between students, the campus and community of Carbondale, Illinois. Influenced by S.N.C.C. leadership, he began organizing direct action initiatives in Cairo, Illinois and Charleston, Missouri where he met Jim Forman and other members of S.N.C.C. At this time, he was recruited as a S.N.C.C. Field Secretary. In 1961, Neblett joined S.N.C.C. in organizing black voter registration in Mississippi, and as a member of the S.N.C.C. Freedom Singers along with Bernice Reagon and others. The group sang at protests, marches, on picket lines and during sit-ins in over 40 states during the Civil Rights Movement. He has been jailed for his organizing efforts over 20 times. Neblett was among those who joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the 1963 March on Washington and led participants in song after Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. He also participated in the 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery and the 2001 Million Man March. During his career, Neblett performed with such luminaries as Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Harry Belafonte, Joan Baez, Odetta, Mahalia Jackson and Nina Simone. Neblett was elected Logan County, Kentucky’s first African American Magistrate in 1989. In 2010, Neblett accepted an invitation from President Barrack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to join the S.N.C.C. Freedom Singers in performing at the White House during the “Celebration of Music for the Civil Rights Movement,” followed by a workshop with First Lady Michelle Obama for 200 youth regarding the Civil Rights Movement. In 2010, Dr. Neblett’s activism earned him the Freedom Flame Award in Selma, Alabama and a place in the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame. As a performer and educator, Dr. Neblett has traveled to Ireland, Turkey, Denmark, and Spain. Currently, Neblett serves as founder and president of Community Projects, Inc. in Russellville, Kentucky. Neblett and his wife of over 47 years, Marvinia Benton Neblett have six children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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