Shelf Life Community Story Project
Amplifying community voices, learning from neighborhood stories, and interrupting narratives of erasure in Seattle's Central District.

CORE and the FBI

Joan and Ed Singler

Joan and Ed Singler by Jill Freidberg

Joan and Ed Singler by Jill Freidberg


One of the very first people we met was Sidney Gerber, and it turned out he owned seven pieces of property in the Central Area. He said, "I'll sell you this piece of property for what I paid for it, but you can't build a house and speculate. You have to live there." And we said "Fine! We're looking for some place in that neighborhood." And so that's how we ended up on Yesler. We bought that piece of property from Sid. And we moved into that house in early spring, 1964. 

We told the architect that, when he was laying out the house, we wanted the living room and dining room all to run together, because we wanted to be able to put at least 30 people into that space. We did have a lot of meetings at our house. It got to the point where, when we first started, people had to actually be recommended for membership in CORE. So there would be an orientation meeting which Ed ran, for a while, and request that you must commit to non-violence to be a member of that organization. Well as things picked up, it was like meeting every ten days or something like that. 

Ed- And a lot of walking. We had to hand deliver those flyers and leaflets to the Central Area. That was something back then.

Joan - We had the first picket at Safeway in October. I was pregnant with our first child, operating out of the NAACP office, on Pine, just off of 23rd. So to get leaflets out to people, we were cranking them out on their mimeograph machine and then I would run them down there and check on how many people had showed up for the picket line and hand out the flyers. And that was on a Friday and Saturday and I think I delivered Carrie on a Monday or a Tuesday or something like that.

We had the shop-in at 13th and Union. That's one that Dave Lamb thought we should, out of respect for the president, who had just been assassinated, that we should call off the picket for a week. Dave Lamb was white. I can tell you that the black people in CORE said, "you can just forget that." I mean, I don't think anybody thought that John F. Kennedy did a great deal to help black people. And they said, "we've been on that picket line now since September, and we're gonna keep it going the whole Thanksgiving weekend."

The FBI was on us just like that. So the FBI went to Mt. Zion. They told the minister, "you better check on one of your parishioners here, because he's in big trouble. He's hooked up with a bunch of communists."

Ed - Norm Johnson, he was the first Treasurer of CORE.

Joan - So Norm got called by Reverend McKinney and said, "Who you hanging out with?" and told him the FBI had visited him and he might be in danger of ruining his reputation by getting involved in CORE.