Karen Haberman Trusty was a white exchange student to Spelman College in the Fall of 1963. There she was recruited into The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) by James Forman to participate in the many sit-ins in Atlanta including Lester Maddox’s restaurant. She was arrested twice and spent about 10 days in jail including some time with Dick Gregory. In between these sit-ins, she worked in the Atlanta SNCC office helping coordinate their massive communications and support network for their community organizers throughout the Deep South. During the summer of ’64 she was a support person for the SNCC staff that trained volunteers in Oxford, Ohio for Freedom Summer in Mississippi. After the Oxford orientation, she
returned to the Atlanta SNCC office and was one of the four people to walk into the segregationist rally at Stone Mountain with its infamous Ku Klux Klan history. All four of them were attacked by the crowd of 10,000 who were screaming and cursing at them. All of them survived and she then went to Greenwood, Mississippi for the rest of Freedom Summer.
After the Civil Rights Movement, she went on to organize poor whites in Appalachia and in Detroit for 5 years. She then taught GED in economically depressed communities in Lexington, Kentucky. She later travelled to South Africa and helped raise funds for organizations that were working with orphans whose parents had died of AIDS. Recently she has been speaking to college students about her Civil Rights experiences and about racism in America. She is featured in a film “In Rarefied Air” which documents her story and is relevant to college students today. In 2010, she was awarded a Martin Luther King “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the World Arts Foundation. In 2012, she spoke at University of Wisconsin at their civil rights forum. Recently she has been assisting Dr. Roberta Hunte at Portland State University in teaching her Facing History, Facing Ourselves class and in her 20th Century African American Experience class.