Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) National Office
Backstory and Context
In 1955 the Montgomery Bus Boycott started when activist Rosa Parks refused to give her bus seat to a white man. In response to her arrest in December of 1955, other activists started a boycott of the city's bus system in an attempt to integrate it. The boycott lasted for 381 days, ending in a victory for the activists in December of 1956. The organizer of the boycott was the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) with Martin Luther King Jr. as its president and Ralph David Abernathy as its program director. The boycott gained extensive attention for its successful practice of non-violent protest, and it inspired African Americans to fight harder for their civil rights in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
After the success in Montgomery, the MIA
saw a need to create an organization that would oversee civil rights activities in the South; between January 10-11, 1957 the MIA, Martin Luther King Jr., and other
civil rights activists created the Southern Leadership Conference on
Transportation and Nonviolent Integration. This important decision was
made in Atlanta by 60 people from 10 different states. The new group believed
that civil rights were an important part of government, that segregation had to
end, and that African Americans must nonviolently fight against
segregation. In February of 1957 the group's name was changed to the
Southern Leadership Conference, created an Executive Board of Directors, and
chose officers such as Martin Luther King Jr. for president, Ralph David
Abernathy for Financial Secretary Treasurer, Rev. C. K. Steele for Vice
President, Rev. T.J. Jeminson for Secretary, and Attorney I.M. Augustine for
During its first convention in August of 1957, the organization's name changed again to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. At this convention, the elected leaders set a platform for the group's mission. They decided that non-violent mass action was key to achieving its civil rights mission, that they should work with local grassroots organizations throughout the South, and that the group should not discriminate against any person, that instead it should include people of all ethnicities and religions. From this point on, the SCLC was present in nonviolent protests such as sit-ins and marches in the late 1950s and 1960s.
Today the SCLC has expanded its scope to protect the human rights of all people across the nation, not just the South. More specifically its three campaigns are The International Poor People’s Campaign, Justice for Girls, and Kingian Non-Violence Training. The International Poor People’s campaign is an attempt to eliminate the existence of poverty around the world and was actually created by Martin Luther King Jr. in the organization’s earlier days. Justice For Girls brings attention to the human trafficking that exists within the United States, sharing the stories of young girls who have been victims of this crime with the hope to eliminate it. The Kingian Non-Violence Training is an effort to persuade people to adopt a non-violent ideology to solve injustices across the country. This training follows the non-violence philosophy of Martin Luther King Jr.