Memphis Activist Dr. Coby Smith at the Juneteenth in Douglass Park

Dr. Coby Vernon Smith, noted Memphis activist and educator, is the first African-American student to attend Southwestern University at Memphis, which is today Rhodes College. In the spring of 1967, with Charles Cabbage and John Burrell Smith, he founded an organization called the Black Organizing Project in Memphis. Feeling that the mainstream civil rights movement was primarily geared to integrating the black upper class with white society, BOP took on the task of organizing the ghettos, particularly youth. In the Riverside neighborhood around Carver High School the name BOP was gradually replaced by The Invaders, and it would be this name that was spread by local media and which would be remembered. The Invaders marched for the Memphis sanitation workers in 1968, taught Black history classes in storefronts in North Memphis and South Memphis, marched with hospital strikers, and marched across Arkansas with Lance “Sweet Willie Wine” Watson in 1969. Although the media attempted to consistently link the Invaders to violence and hatred of whites, reporters rarely allowed the Invaders to rebut such charges, or to state what their organization stood for. At a time here in 2011 when the rights of union members and sanitation workers in Memphis are under attack from politicians, it is important for Memphians to remember the lost legacy of The Invaders. 

4 Replies to “Memphis Activist Dr. Coby Smith at the Juneteenth in Douglass Park”

  1. I was one of the white students at Southwestern who befriended Coby, and I am impressed that he has become so respectable. I’d love to get in touch with him.

  2. Hi there brother its been awhile since we’ve talk hope all well with you and family. My name is Albert Green and I work with you in the 80’s when you where campaigning for district 7 against Ricky Pete. It would be nice to do some catching up. I work at CAAP INC. now as a substance abuse counselor. You can reach me at 901 367-7550 ex.5009 between the hours of 4:00p 6:00p . looking forward to talking with you soon.

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