Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) National Office
In April of 1960 SNCC was created to fight segregation using non-violence and direct action in conjunction with other prominent civil rights organizations and leaders such as the SCLC and Martin Luther King Jr. Their national office was located in Atlanta, Georgia, and the organization included mostly students and other young people. Like the SCLC, SNCC received national attention for its civil rights efforts and achievements, but as the civil rights movement continued a change in the organization’s leadership and philosophy led to SNCC’s decline. By the end of the 1960s SNCC was no longer in existence but its legacy continues today.
Backstory and Context
After sit-ins occurred to
fight segregation at local businesses and services in Greensboro, North
Carolina in February of 1960, SNCC was formed in Raleigh in April. The
organization was formed at Shaw University under the supervision of Ella Baker.
Through a request made by Baker, the organization was made possible by Martin
Luther King Jr.’s $800.00 donation to help the new group get
started. Baker was no stranger to civil rights activism; she was the NAACP
Director of Branches during the 1940s, she was involved in the creation of the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and served as the SCLC's
executive director when the sit-in movement became popular. While she praised
the sit-in method to integrate local businesses, Baker hoped to expand SNCC's
efforts in the Civil Rights Movement to address issues on the grassroots
level. With her assistance, SNCC established a direct-action policy that
took the form of sit-ins and voter registration.
SNCC gained national attention when its members participated in the Freedom Rides of 1961 which sought to enforce the integration of buses in response to the 1960 Supreme Court ruling that segregated interstate transportation facilities are unconstitutional. When the rides began the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) originally led the movement, but when segregationists attacked the riders in Alabama SNCC members from Nashville stepped in to complete the rides. After the Freedom Rides, SNCC participated in voting rights efforts in McComb, Mississippi and fought against segregation in Albany, Georgia as part of the Albany Movement. Along with these specific events, SNCC participated in marches such as the 1963 March on Washington with King and the SCLC.
In 1964, 3 SNCC members were killed by
KKK members in the Mississippi Freedom Summer.
The Mississippi Freedom Summer was an attempt by civil rights activists
from all over the country to register as many African Americans as possible to
vote in the state of Mississippi. The same year SNCC backed the creation of the
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party which defied the validity of Mississippi’s
all white Democratic party. Despite this, the Democratic National Convention
decided to keep an all-white Mississippi delegation. After this loss, SNCC
and other organizations like the SCLC participated in the 1965 Selma to
Montgomery March causing more conflict among SNCC members and the SCLC. SNCC
started to question their non-violent policy after the violence they experienced
in the march and further questioned the participation of whites in the civil
In 1966 Stokely Carmichael was chosen as SNCC's new chairman causing further tension with other organizations such as the SCLC. He introduced the idea of "black power" to describe a new philosophy of taking care of oneself and of a willingness to protect oneself by any means necessary. In addition, Carmichael’s new ideology excluded the assistance of white people in civil rights efforts. Carmichael also brought attention to the hardships experienced in black urban cities. The black power ideology moved SNCC away from its racial inclusiveness and its non-violent doctrine, preparing it to meet violence with violence if necessary. These ideas led to a split from the SCLC. While Carmichael proposed these ideas as the group’s chair, members of SNCC could not agree on the ideology and direction SNCC should take. Causing further problems, in 1967 H. Rap Brown took Carmichael's place and emphasized a radical use of violence that led to fires and chaos that summer leading to Brown’s arrest. Between negative national attention from this use of violence, internal fighting, and a falling out with its former allies such as the SCLC, SNCC ceased to exist after the 1960s.
History. "SNCC-Black History." Accessed September 26, 2017 http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/sncc
"Martin Luther King Jr. and the Global Freedom Struggle." Accessed on December 10, 2017. http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_student_nonviolent_coordinating_c...