The SNCC assisted student Civil Rights activists and organized 'Sit-ins', Freedom Rides and Voter protests throughout the Deep South.
Facts about SNCC
Background History: The “separate but equal” doctrine of the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson Case ruled that racial segregation was constitutional and valid, as long as the facilities provided for whites and blacks were roughly equal. The ruling led to the introduction of the infamous segregation of the Jim Crow Laws.
Background History: The Civil Rights movement was galvanized into action when the Supreme Court dismissed the "separate but equal" arguments in 1954 Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka and ruled that segregation was prohibited by the Constitution.
Background History: Civil Rights activists in the NAACP and the SCLC helped to organize the successful protest against segregation on buses in the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and in 1957 the Little Rock Nine made a stand for the de-segregation of schools.
President Eisenhower responded to the quest for se-segregation and equality by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1957, to protect the right of African Americans to vote.
Times were changing and young African Americans were motivated to join the struggle against racial discrimination and segregation that separated white and black Americans in relation to housing, voting education, transport, rest rooms and restaurants.
The founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was sparked on February 1, 1960 when four black students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro, North Carolina walked into the F. W. Woolworth store and sat down at the segregated lunch counter.
The Greensboro students, whose names were Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair, Jr., David Richmond, and Franklin McCain, were refused service but they kept their seats.
Their form of Lunch counter protest against segregation, known as the Greensboro sit-in, spread throughout the South resulting in a massive boycott of stores with segregated lunch counters.
The spontaneous action of the four Greensboro students attracted huge support. The next day, February 2, 1960, 29 more students joined the sit-in and by the end of the week 300 students were participating in the protest.
The Greensboro Sit-Ins began a new mass movement for Civil Rights. In just two months the Student Sit-Ins spread across 54 cities in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
The Sit-In movement saw students start protests at segregated lunch counters, restaurants, movie theaters, stores, hotels and swimming pools.
The Sit-Ins provided a way for students to make their own types of protests and motivated them to join the struggle for Civil Rights. Many students had become disillusioned at the slow pace of integration and saw the sit-ins as a way to take protests into their own hands.
The spontaneous, disorganized nature of the Sit-In movement concerned the leaders of the NAACP and the SCLC. There were fears that the peaceful protests of young, undisciplined students could easily erupt into violence. Students at sit-ins were attacked and intimidated - but the vast majority refused to fight back, adhering to their doctrine of peaceful demonstrations.
The rapid spread and the growing support of the Sit-In movement made student leaders realize that the efforts of students needed to be coordinated.
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was founded on April 16, 1960 by Ella Baker, a Civil rights activist who had worked for the NAACP and executive director of the SCLC. The founding of the SNCC was to transform the limited student movement to desegregate lunch counters to achieving major social reforms.
55 year old Ella Baker walked out of an SCLC meeting refusing to be a part of a motion that students become the youth wing of the SCLC. She believed that the students should structure their own movement, if that is what they wanted to do.
On April 17, 1960 Ella Baker invited student leaders to attend a convention at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The first official meeting of the SNCC was held in Atlanta, Georgia on May 13, 1960. The early leaders of the SNCC included Julian Bond, Marion Barry, Jesse Jackson, John Lewis, Robert Moses, Stokely Carmichael, Chuck McDew, J. Charles Jones, Diane Nash, James Forman, Bernie Sanders and Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson.
The aim of the early leaders of the SNCC was to coordinate the efforts of their student members to de-segregate public facilities across the southern states. The majority of SNCC members were black but white members also played a significant role.
Communication between its members played a vital role in coordinating the efforts of the SNCC. In June 1960 the SNCC released the first Student Voice Newspaper. By 1961 the SNCC had organized hundreds of students to participate in sit-ins across over 100 southern cities.
Julian Bond helped co-found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) while he was a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta. Julian Bond served as the communications director of SNCC from January 1961 to September 1966 and helped to organize civil rights and voter registration drives.
In his role as the communications director of SNCC, the charismatic Julian Bond alerted the media to the stories of violence and discrimination as the SNCC challenged legal segregation in the South’s public facilities.
Between 1961 and 1965 the SNCC broadened their scope and strategies. The Sit-ins were followed by campaigns aimed at encouraging African Americans to vote and the organizing the famous Freedom Rides.
The members and volunteers of the SNCC played a vital role in organizing and participating in the famous Freedom Rides. One of the early leaders of the SNCC, John Lewis, was one of the first Freedom Riders and was violently attacked in Rock Hill, SC. The First March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama that took place on March 7, 1965 was also organized by John Lewis
During the summer of 1961 over 300 Civil Rights activists became Freedom Riders. On September 23, 1961 Attorney General, Robert Kennedy instructed the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to issue new rules that ended discrimination in interstate travel.
On August 28, 1963 members of the SNCC participation in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in which SNCC leader John Lewis was a keynote speaker
Robert Moses an SNCC volunteer in New York made the observation that the SNCC was concentrating its efforts in the urban, city areas. Robert Moses also wanted to help African Americans in the rural areas of the south and his attention was drawn to the problems of African Americans whose attempts to register to vote were often met with violence and intimidation..
Robert Moses established the Voter Education Program (VEP) in April 1962 to organize voter registration drives in the South. The Voter Education Program (VEP) attracted private contributions to the civil rights struggle and by the end of 1964 VEP grants totaled almost $900,000.
The efforts of the Voter Education Program (VEP) were met with violence and intimidation by white supremacists. Volunteers were beaten and their lives were threatened and many were arrested.
Those who registered to vote were also threatened and intimidated. Fannie Lou Hamer was evicted from her home on a plantation in Ruleville, Mississippi when the owner, W.D. Marlow, became aware that she had registered to vote in August 1962.
In June 1964, Fannie Lou Hamer went on to become one of the leaders of the Freedom Summer Campaign in an attempt to register as many African-American voters as possible in Mississippi, which had historically excluded most blacks from voting.
On June 21, 1964, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, participants in the Freedom Summer campaign were murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).
Despite the threats, violence and intimidation nearly 800,000 new black southern voters were added to the electoral rolls by the end of 1964.
On December 27, 1965, due to growing militancy born of disillusionment, the SNCC excluded white members. Stokely Carmichael declared that "emphasis must be irrevocably on blackness and black people".
In 1966 the SNCC split into two factions - nonviolence vs. Black Power. The Black Power movement was led by leaders such as Stokely Carmichael and emphasized racial pride and African Heritage. The Black Power movement also included organizations such as the Black Panthers who advocated the strategy of violent revolution by African Americans.
In 1969 the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) officially changed its name to the Student National Coordinating Committee to reflect the broadening of its strategies.
The rise of the militants and black revolutionaries effectively ended the power of the SNCC movement by the beginning of the 1970's
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