John Robert Zellner

Born in 1940 in Alabama, Robert Zellner was a white field worker for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in the early sixties. He attended Huntington College in Alabama but left school to work for various organizations involved in the black freedom struggle. He participated in the Freedom Rides and was charged with "criminal anarchy" in Louisiana and later was sentenced to hard labor in Alabama on a vagrancy conviction. Zellner was harassed by local southern authorities for his activism, arrested dozens of times, and beaten by police. He participated in protests in McComb, Albany, Danville, Talladega, Montgomery, Birmingham, and New Haven. Zellner photographed many of these protests as well as helped organize them. Zellner arrived in Danville, Virginia, in June 1963 shortly after the "Bloody Monday" violence on June 10. Within three weeks city authorities arrested Zellner and charged him and other demonstrators with "inciting the black population to acts of war and violence against the white population." A few years later the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals reviewed the Danville arrest cases, including Zellner's. Eventually, in 1973 most of the convictions were overturned and the Danville Commonwealth's Attorney was instructed to review the remaining cases under appeal. Zellner teaches history at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.