The SNCC Project: A Year by Year History 1960-1970

The SNCC project began as a collaborative class project in History 105 “The Peoples of the United States” in Winter 2016. Hannah Wise, Jiajun Law, Kenon Morgan, Gary Chen, Brittany Lasher, Rachel Caldwell, Oliver Groeneveld, and An Lau searched ProQuest newspaper databases for articles about the activities of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from 1960 to 1970, entering information into a database that provides the basis for the accompanying maps. They also wrote reports that detailed some of the key issues and actions of the pivotal civil rights organization. Selections from those reports are compiled below forming a collaborative essay that provides a brief history of the organization. Katie Anastas is project editor. This essay accompanies Mapping SNCC History and Geography 1960-1970.

Student Voice and the Origins of SNCC (by Hannah Wise)

In Greensboro, North Carolina, February of 1960, four students from the North Carolina Agriculture and Technical College went to a downtown Woolworths grocery store and purchased some small items to initiate their big plans. Joseph McNeil, Izell Blair, Franklin McCain, and David Richmond sat at a Whites-only lunch counter and ordered coffee. Though they were refused, they stayed until store closing. The police arrived, but took no action due to the lack of provocation by the four students. The four students went home and recruited as many people as they could to repeat their sit-in the next day. Twenty-five men and four women returned to the Woolworths counter the next day. As they were heckled by Whites, they continued to study, read, and attract attention from local news reporters. Over 60 men and women occupied the counter by the third day of the sit-ins, 300 people by the fourth day, and over 1000 later that week. After bomb threats, the stores were closed and arrests were made. Although the protests in Greensboro had been temporarily discontinued, the idea had spread across the nation and had around 55,000 students offering support from 55 cities over 13 states by the end of March. The Executive Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Ella Baker, sent a letter to representatives of significant protest groups of the sit-ins hoping to organize a conference to "share experience gained in recent protest demonstrations and to help chart future goals for effective action.” The conference was held in April of 1960 at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., where the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced “Snick”) was born. 

In the early stages of the organization, there was no funding. Baker offered students a small corner within SCLC headquarters to serve as an office and meeting room. The National Student Association (NSA) was also quick to respond for help in the first months of SNCC formation. The NSA allowed SNCC to use equipment and rooms. SNCC grew in size and slowly became more recognized as an organization willing to take direct action in the fight for racial equality.

Ella Baker was concerned that the SCLC, led by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was not adequately involved with the younger blacks of the South. She encouraged the founders of the SNCC to expand their goals past lunch counter integration to achieving significant social reform, and to use King’s nonviolent approach as a political strategy. In addition to advocating integration, they also campaigned for registering black voters, opened schools to teach illiterate farmers, and established health clinics. 

In June of 1960, the SNCC released their first issue of The Student Voice, an internal newsletter for SNCC. In the first issue of The Student Voice, SNCC released their statement of purpose: 

“We affirm the philosophical or religious ideal of non-violence as the foundation of our purpose, the presupposition of our faith, and the manner of our action…. By appealing to conscience and standing on the moral nature of human existence, nonviolence nurtures the atmosphere in which reconciliation and justice become actual possibilities”.[1] 

The Student Voice also gave the SNCC members a vehicle for conveying organizational goals, activities, and opinions. Activists found that the daily press could not be relied on for accurate or trustworthy reporting, so the release of The Student Voice meant that, “…the ‘troublemakers’ will be able to tell their own story. We shall expect it to be authentic, comprehensive, revealing, penetrating - and with a certain something of college atmosphere”.[2] The Student Voice was not only a way of relaying news of events, but also a way to give a voice to their members and of other supporting activist organizations. 

SNCC’s nonviolent approach was key to their rise to power in 1960, and sit-ins proved to be an important strategy for the student and civil rights movements. During many sit-in events, White people would taunt the demonstrators by pouring ketchup or sugar on their heads, or even hit them. The restraint of the protestors despite constant hostility gave a distinct impression of moral superiority. The sit-ins provided national attention that gained and inspired supporters from other groups. The EPIC student organization in Boston discussed their admiration for the SNCC and their accomplishments in a letter, writing, “One of the achievements of the sit-in movement has been to successfully challenge the customs of the southern power structure.”[3] The SNCC emerged out of events that “surfaced interracial tensions that had long been suppressed in the South, and they stimulated a process of self-realization among blacks…”[4] Their association with this innovative strategy helped them stand out among other black activist organizations. 

The use of religion as a political tactic had a large influence on the SNCC’s activities. Most southern churches were segregated. The second issue of The Student Voice included an article that addresses the contradictory nature of churches: “The church is the house of God, to be attended by all people, regardless of race, who wish to worship there.”[5] Religion allowed the SNCC to present segregation as a moral issue. They were able to use God as a way to relate themselves to members of the church who did not see segregation as their concern. As way to “dramatize that the church, the house of all people, fosters segregation more than any other institution,” many students participated in what would become known as “kneel-ins.” [6]

Kneel-ins consisted of Blacks kneeling in prayer outside of Whites-only churches.[7] Baptist and Presbyterian churches were two of the main targets of protest, as their “ministers lacked the protection and support of a church hierarchy”.[8] In many instances, peaceful protesters who refused to leave church property were threatened with arrest. The SNCC correctly predicted that “the ‘kneel-in’ [would] be one of the next important phases of the student movement.”[9] Religion helped fundamentally guide SNCC’s philosophy and actions.

The peaceful, nonviolent aspect of kneel-ins provided the SNCC with attention and support from organizations and newspapers. The 172nd General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church sent a letter to SNCC, writing, “Laws and customs requiring racial discrimination are, in our judgement, such serious violations of the law of God as to justify peaceful and orderly disobedience or disregard of these laws.”[10] The letter also commended nonviolence, supported their “common cause” and urged them to continue. In addition to this, the moral power of kneel-ins was immediately recognized by national religious publications such as The Christian Century.[11]Kneel-ins were also recognized alongside sit-ins in major publications such as The New York Times, and The National Review. The Pittsburgh Courier argued that had kneel-ins emerged prior to sit-ins, the movement would have, “been initiated on God’s level,”[12] and violence and arrests would have been less prevalent.[13]

Nonviolence aided the SNCC’s public appearance in the media by simultaneously promoting their cause while throwing a harsh light on racism in the South. Newspaper and television reporters covered public protests, and their peaceful response to violence caught media attention sent a strong message to the public. They also promoted their cause by sponsoring regular seminars on nonviolence. This kind of public image attracted followers and also deprecated the actions and beliefs of Whites.           

1961-1962 (by Brittany Lasher and An Lau) 

In the early 1960s, junior college students in Rock Hill, North Carolina, initiated sit-ins and were met with strong resistance. Seventy students had been arrested and jailed for participating, and it was from this small activist group that the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was formed.

In 1961, ten CORE students were arrested for participating in a sit-in at a lunch counter and were unlawfully charged with trespassing. They were sentenced to 30 days in jail or a fine of 100 dollars. CORE sought help from SNCC, and the 15 SNCC members attending the meeting unanimously agreed to support CORE. Four African American SNCC members volunteered to go and participate with CORE in the Rock Hill protest. The executive secretary of SNCC, Ed King, wrote a statement encouraging others to “join them at the lunch counters and in jail,” writing, “Only by this type of action can we show that the non-violent movement against segregation is not a local issue for just the individual community, but rather a united movement of all those who believe in equality.”[14]The four SNCC students who arrived in Rock Hill were arrested for attempting to obtain service at the lunch counter and joined the CORE students in jail.

Another notable strategy SNCC used to oppose segregation was helping Blacks register to vote. In Mississippi alone, “out of 500,000 Blacks, a mere 23,000, or 4.6 percent, were registered to vote.”[15] When Black people tried to vote, they were often refused service by the registrars or met with violence. SNCC made it their goal to educate people about their voting rights. Robert Moses, assistant director of SNCC, created the first voter registration schools in Mississippi in 1961. Instructors accompanied participants to places where they could register to vote.

Like SNCC’s sit-ins and other demonstrations, voter registration was also met with opposition by local law enforcement and the public. Moses was arrested on August 15th as he accompanied three people who were going to register. Just two weeks later he would be attacked as he accompanied two others. Moses and SNCC remained resilient despite the terror and continued to help people register to vote. The cases of violence against SNCC provoked Robert Kennedy to send help and promise to protect voter registration workers. However, federal assistance proved many times to be inadequate. For example, when a registration office was raided by armed Whites, “They notified the FBI and were told an agent was on his way. None came.”[16] Kennedy realized that “only something tantamount to a military occupation could protect the workers.”[17]

Meanwhile, a SNCC branch led by Charles Sherrod in Albany, Georgia, held voter registration drives and mass protests. These drives worked similarly to the voter registration schools in Mississippi: “SNCC staff sought out residents to attend meetings on voter registration and then arranged their transportation to the courthouse to register.”[18] As they had in Mississippi, segregationist Whites sometimes responded with terrorism. In 1962, “Four Negro churches – some of which had been used as meeting places for voter registration meetings – were burned to the ground during the summer”.[19] The Chicago Daily Defender reported that African Americans attempting to enroll in all White schools were framed and arrested for false crimes by the local police. On January 12, 1963, the Baltimore Afro-American reported that a police officer forcibly removed SNCC members from the town during the time of the voter registration drive. The officer was charged with six counts of deprivation of citizens’ rights, as well as illegal arrests and imprisonment.

On March 3, 1963, the Afro-American reported over 100 African Americans attempting to register in Greenwood, Miss.[20] In Amite County, it was reported that many of the SNCC volunteers and African Americans attempting to vote were beaten and jailed. On April 13, 1963, the Chicago Daily Defender reported that the Lee country register office in Illinois closed before scheduled hours.[21] The registrar of the office claimed that he was ill and unable to keep the office open, but this was later disproven.

As SNCC continued to work for voting rights, they also played a crucial role in the March on Washington in August of 1963. Several months earlier, President Kennedy had confronted Congress and asked them to end the voting discrimination against Blacks.[22] In June 1963, he proposed a bill that would push for equal voting rights and racial desegregation. The March on Washington would attempt to convince government officials to pass the bill for civil rights and act as a demonstration against police brutality towards civil rights demonstrators. The march drew in over 200,000 people, more than double the expected number of participants. The marchers peacefully moved along Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House toward the Lincoln Memorial. At the Lincoln Memorial, John Lewis of SNCC and other civil rights leaders gave speeches, and Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.[23] The March on Washington would go down in history as one of the most influential demonstrations during the civil rights era.  

Freedom Rides (by An Lau and Brittany Lasher)

In 1961, SNCC, CORE, and other groups called on volunteers nationwide to pressure the federal government to enforce a 1960 Supreme Court ruling. In the case, Boynton v. Virginia, the Supreme Court had ruled that segregated bus and train terminals were unconstitutional. However, the southern states had failed to implement and enforce laws protecting African Americans from discrimination on buses and trains. For the remainder of the summer, Freedom Riders would ride buses into Mississippi. The Freedom Rides, which resulted in hundreds of arrests across the nation, were some of SNCC’s greatest successes.

Freedom Riders used the following strategy: “Interracial groups would travel on buses; blacks would sit in the front and whites in the back, or they might sit together in the front. At every rest stop, black would enter the white waiting room and whites the black waiting room.”[24] This method was met with great hostility. The first Freedom Ride began in early May 1961 with 13 members; six Whites, and seven Blacks headed for New Orleans from Washington D.C. At first, things were peaceful. It all changed on May 14 in Anniston, Alabama: 

“A white mob firebombed the lead bus and blocked the vehicle’s exit… The second bus was boarded by the Ku Klux Klan; one rider, a retired Detroit school administrator named Walter Bergman, suffered permanent brain damage from a beating, and another Jim Pack, required over fifty stitches…After the Klan attacks, no one from Greyhound Bus Lines was willing to drive the buses on to Montgomery”.[25] 

The violence was widely publicized and word of it spread across the South. After hearing about the violence, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) put together a group to continue the Freedom Rides. After this group was also attacked along their trip, President Kennedy sent federal marshals into that area to obtain an injunction against the Ku Klux Klan and other violent groups. Even so, mobs still formed and attacked Freedom Riders throughout the South.

The Freedom Rides brought SNCC support and media attention, but as supporters grew in number, so did the number of those who opposed them. On May 20, 1961 on the outskirts of Montgomery, the riders were left without a police escort. They were beaten as they exited the bus, with one member suffering permanent paralysis. This incident struck hard at CORE and forced CORE leader James Farmer to call off the Freedom Rides. SNCC, however, chose not back down. Just a week after CORE disbanded their rides, SNCC began to conduct their own. Initially, there were 10 volunteers, this time composed of eight Blacks and two Whites. In Birmingham, Alabama, two of the riders did not comply with moving to the back of the bus, resulting in their jailing and protective custody of the remaining eight. The 10 were released after going on a hunger strike and were dropped off at the state border. 

Freedom Summer 1964 (by Jiajun Law)

On June 13, 1964, the first group of volunteers began training for voter registration projects in Mississippi that came to be known as the Freedom Summer. Over the next 10 weeks, over 1,000 out-of-state volunteers would come from the north to participate alongside thousands of African American Mississippians. A crucial fact of the Freedom Summer project is that over 90 percent of the volunteers were White. In addition, many of them were from the North, attended prestigious schools, and had somewhat influential parents.

Bob Moses, field secretary of SNCC and director of the Freedom Summer, thought that the involvement of Northern White students would “awaken the interest of the country” and that the government would have to respond if anything violent were to happen.[26] He had also learned from previous voter registration drives that, although local Black leadership was essential to the movement, they would not succeed without the support of White students and civil rights leaders.

After 10 weeks, SNCC’s Freedom Summer captured the attention of the national news media. The national media had previously paid little attention to Black voters in the South and the dangers that Black civil rights workers faced. During the Freedom Summer, the media reported arrests of more than 1,000 volunteers and local voters, the beatings of the Freedom Summer workers, the burnings and bombings of churches and homes, and, most importantly, the abduction and murder of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.

The abductions and killings of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner caught so much attention of the national media because two of the victims, Goodman and Schwerner, were White. They had been arrested for their participation in Freedom Summer, and on the night they were released from prison, they were shot at point-blank range by members of KKK. On July 4, 1964, The New Pittsburgh Courier reported that the event caused “waves of shock throughout the nation,” and that President Johnson dispatched former CIA chief Allen Dulles and 60 FBI agents to Mississippi to investigate the case.

The news about the violence toward the northern White student volunteers made people think about the violence that the civil rights activists faced in the South and incentivized many northern White people to start caring about the Civil Rights Movement, especially the parents of student volunteers.

The northern White students’ involvement caused many Black activists and students to refrain from participating in Freedom Summer. While planning the Freedom Summer, many civil rights activists had voiced concerns about involving too many White students in the event. One even argued that the Whites were taking over the movement at a SNCC meeting.[27] However, many other leaders such as Bob Moses and Fannie Lou Hamer still favored involving White students in the Freedom Summer. Lou Hamer argued, “If we’re trying to break down this barrier of segregation, we can’t segregate ourselves.”[28] In December 1963, the committee of SNCC decided to have only one hundred White students for the Mississippi Summer Project. Despite this decision by the committee, White civil rights leaders such as Allard Lowenstein went on and recruited a much larger number of White volunteers. Northern students’ involvement in the Freedom Summer helped SNCC grab massive attention from the national media and led more people in the North to care about the Civil Rights Movement.

SNCC held trainings for the northern student volunteers before Freedom Summer began, including “a week of orientation” to prepare the first 300 student volunteers for the voter registration drive. In addition, they also provided the volunteers the “orientation sessions to teach in freedom schools.”[29] The New Pittsburgh Courier reported that, at the end of the Freedom Summer, over 200 of the northern White student volunteers would stay in Mississippi to join as SNCC staff members.[30] This allowed SNCC to keep some of its momentum in the area after the Freedom Summer ended.

SNCC volunteers, both Black and White, endured even more aggressive opposition during this time. In November 1964, the New Pittsburgh Courier reported that over 50 bombings had targeted the civil rights activists, volunteers, and supporters in Mississippi during the summer of 1964.[31] Despite this violence, SNCC set up dozens of freedom schools during the ten-week program. The New Pittsburgh Courier reported that SNCC established “41 Freedom Schools in 20 communities throughout the state,” with an enrollment of 2,165 students and “175 fulltime Freedom School teachers.”[32] By the end of the summer, they reported that SNCC helped about 55,000 African Americans to register to vote.[33] 

1965-66 (by Michael Whitmer, Oliver Groeneveld, Kenon Morgan, Gary Chen)

1964 was a turning point for SNCC. Tensions grew between White and Black members and between those who supported nonviolence and those who felt they needed a more radical approach. Many members began expressing interest in attacking sexism in the same way they had fought racism. Some members wanted more internal political organization. Just a short four years after the group’s creation, a questioning of ideals was quickly becoming apparent.

By 1965, SNCC was still focusing on sit-ins. In one of the later examples of the SNCC’s nonviolent protests, the group planned a major sit-in at the Mississippi congressional delegation. Over 2,000 members lobbied at the offices of the Mississippi delegates. The lobbying was focused on nonviolently calling for the unseating of the delegates, which would dramatize the need for home rule in Washington, D.C[34]. The nonviolent protest highlighted the progressively radical ideals of the SNCC, who had moved on from voter registration to focus on bigger causes, such as home rule.

This questioning of their founding ideals became very apparent during the 1965 SCLC march from Selma to Montgomery. Led by Hosea Williams of the SCLC and John Lewis of the SNCC, marchers set out on March 7 in protest of the police shooting of Jimmie Lee Jackson in Alabama. They marched peacefully until they crossed the Edmonds Pettus Bridge, where they were met with a blockade set up by Alabama State Troopers and local police. The marchers were ordered to turn back and refused. Sherriff Jim Clark and Mayor John Cloud then ordered law enforcement to use force to make the marchers disperse. Law enforcement brutally beat marchers even as they tried to retreat. Dr. King called for the march to reconvene two days later, and over 2,000 marchers and hundreds of religious leaders joined them. When they met the blockade at the bridge, King ordered the marchers to turn back to Selma and avoid all confrontation.[35] Many members of the SNCC weren’t happy with Dr. King’s decision to turn around and continued marching toward law enforcement. They were met again with severe violence from the Alabama law enforcement. This was just a hint of things to come for the SNCC and the Civil Rights Movement as a whole.

Even after President Johnson approved the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965, there was still significant violence and inequality in the South. SNCC set up voter registration in Alabama, including Lowndes County, one of the most dangerous areas to run a voter drive.[36] The county had a majority of Black citizens, and more than half of the town lived under the poverty line. Many of the SNCC staffers believed that the Black population should have the right to arm themselves in self-defense. In the midst of the voting registration project, the Lowndes County Freedom Party (LCFO) was born. They began using the slogan “Black power for Black people.”[37] The growing racial tensions in the country and within the SNCC had begun to discourage any Whites from joining. Congress and the media often attacked the new, more militant SNCC. Over six short years, the group had evolved from one of peaceful nonviolent protest to a radical militant organization set on Black Power.

SNCC became even more radical following the murder of Sammy Younge Jr., a Black college student killed for his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, by a White supremacist in 1966. His killer was later acquitted, and this incident propelled SNCC to protest America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Many African American soldiers had been killed in Vietnam, and the Black population thought it was worthless for their brothers to die for a nation that did not protect their basic human rights back at home. SNCC began to focus on lobbying African Americans to not join the U.S. Army and continued to move toward militancy.

The radicalism of the organization came to a head in May of 1966 when Stokely Carmichael, who had led the voter registration drive in Lowndes County, was chosen as its new leader. Carmichael articulated a strategy of “Black Power,” which many other civil rights leaders felt was not the appropriate means to an end.[38] Carmichael gave a Black Power speech after his arrest during a “March Against Fear.” The term spread, attracting many African Americans, worrying many Whites, and dividing civil rights groups ideologically.

Black Power’s grip over the organization was due largely to ambiguity. Without a concrete definition, it brought both wide support and polarization to SNCC. Some embraced Black separatism, while others strongly opposed it, Martin Luther King Jr. and the SCLC among them. Carmichael remained intent on strengthening the sentiment that had earlier been articulated by leaders like Malcom X and Martin Delany. However, this had negative consequences for stability; SNCC had turned heavily toward militancy and White exclusion. Black Power prevented any broad unification within SNCC.[39]

Under Carmichael's leadership, SNCC focused on promoting draft resistance and rebuking the U.S. government for its involvement in the Vietnam War. According to a newspaper article titled “SNCC Sees Conspiracy In Draft” published in the Chicago Daily Defender on Nov. 17, 1966, Carmichael told the press that “the federal government [hoped] to muzzle the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee by ‘trying to draft all the young men’ in the organization.”[40]  SNCC aimed to provoke public revulsion toward the federal government, and they consequently obtained public support and caused public resistance. SNCC also hoped to make the government aware that many of soldiers who fought on the front lines were Black.

In December 1966, SNCC decided that no Whites would be allowed to participate in the organization. The majority of them had already left at this time due to the rising nationalism within the group. Despite its efforts, the group was in serious financial trouble and often struggled to make rent or pay its staff.[41] Many civil rights leaders, politicians, and the media condemned SNCC’s new policy.

The SNCC began to encourage its members to burn their draft cards in protest of the Vietnam War.[42] This only led to more distrust and dislike of the SNCC. To make matters worse, they were then put under an FBI surveillance program called the Counterintelligence Program. As the group became more radical and militant, criticism and internal issues only continued to rise.

Under Carmichael, SNCC was able to shift attention toward the North, which was less affected by the Civil Rights Movement than southern regions.SNCC focused on poverty, powerlessness and cultural subordination” in the urban North, but had its impact was limited. Leaders in Los Angeles failed to carry out a major project that year, and multiple leaders began abandoning the organization in the South, including John Lewis. Carmichael’s “white cleanse” had failed, with White leaders still in power well into the fall. Julian Bond removed himself from SNCC in October. For many Whites driven out of SNCC, the NAACP and the SCLC maintained a welcoming open-door policy.[43] CORE stood by SNCC from its declining position in the North, but the Patriot, which previously advocated for SNCC, stepped away.[45] While SNCC and its sympathizers were in desperate decline, the militant Lowndes County Freedom Organization founded by Carmichael was about to grow into the Black Panther Party.

1966 also marked a change of tone in national media. According to reporter Carl Rowan, news media now viewed the group as a radical organization without a “constructive program” to fix racial inequalities. SNCC’s decision to boycott the White House Conferences on Civil Rights contributed to its changing reputation.[46]  SNCC had turned from a nonviolent group to one of the more militant and isolated groups within the span of three years. 

1967-70 (by Emily Novogradac, Michael Whitmer, Oliver Groeneveld, Kenon Morgan)

During the years of 1967 to 1970, SNCC cemented its commitment to Black Power and revolutionary principles. In 1967, Carmichael resigned from his leadership position and 23-year old Hubert “Rap” Brown was elected Chairman of SNCC. Carmichael had helped to make the expression “Black Power” meaningful to African Americans and the “growing popularity of the Black power rhetoric was both an asset and a source of concern for the organization.”[47] Some hoped that the new chair, H. Rap Brown, would reduce SNCC’s vulnerability. But he soon became “as notorious among Whites and moderate Blacks as Carmichael had been.”[48] Brown immediately started holding rallies in major cities and became notorious for riling up crowds. At one Brown told over 1,000 African Americans that they should “‘get you some guns’ and to ‘burn this town down’ if it does not satisfy militant Negro demands.”[49]

The Black Panther Party (BPP) emerged as an important organization at this time as well. In July of 1968, the Los Angeles Times reported that the BPP and SNCC decided to join the forces in a working alliance with the hopes of formulating a “Black political party.”[50] This alliance did not last long. A few months later according to the Washington Post, “a significant split has developed between black militants over whether to continue stirring up riots. This is the real reason, according to intelligence reports, for the breakup of the underground extremist Black Panther Party and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.”[51]

Beginning in 1966 and 1967, SNCC looked to build ties with Third World nations and movements, proclaiming an “anti-Western Capitalist” outlook. It applied for Non-Governmental Organization status and soon after declared itself (in part) a Human Rights Organization. Jim Foreman headed SNCC’s International Program. Its pro-Palestinian stance in regard to U.S. relations with Israel led to both confrontation and expansion. The organization sought relations with Third World countries, and by 1967 had ties with North Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Japan, Israel, the Soviet Union and Cuba, where Carmichael spoke with Fidel Castro.[52] But by the end of the year, SNCC had lost allies at home and outsiders did not view it with the same empathy as they had in previous years.

With Brown under arrest and facing serious criminal charges, SNCC elected a new chair, Phillip Hutchings, in 1968. Maintaining the militant commitments of his predecessor, Hutchings’ first speech after taking office was on June 23, 1968, where he declared that “there was no difference between the Democratic and Republican parties” and “called for a Negro party with the black panther as its symbol.”[53] Hutchings was determined to see political changes within his community. In Cleveland, for example, “racial incidents…in which three White policemen and seven Negroes were killed were described by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s chief spokesman yesterday as ‘the first stage of revolutionary armed struggle.’” Hutchings continued to live out Brown’s legacy but was unable to attract as much press attention as he had.

Overshadowed by even more militant organizations like the Black Panther Party, SNCC lost influence and members as the 1960s came to a close. But SNCC had started the turn toward Black Power. According to historian Wesley Hogan, SNCC hoped to “awaken Afro-American political consciousness as an initial step toward building a new social order,” and this called for a new “need for Black power.”[55] According to historian Clayborne Carson, SNCC’s rise and fall “coincided with the evolution of the Black struggles of the 1960s.”[56]

What SNCC stood for had changed drastically over a short period. It started as a nonviolent group tired of segregation and seven years later was considered to be a separatist radical militant organization.  This drastic change to a radical nationalist organization stemmed from frustration with the slow rate of change in the civil rights movement. The changes in ideals and actions by the SNCC over this short time period are representative of the greater frustrations felt throughout the entire civil rights movement and offer a clue into what can happen when urgent demands for rights and justice are ignored or suppressed.



[1] Rev. J.M. Lawson Jr., Statement of Purpose, The Student Voice, June 1960, p. 2

[2] L.D. Reddick, Letter of Congratulations, The Student Voice, August 1960, p. 3

[3] Jonathan Schwartz, An Open Letter to SNCC From a Member of EPIC Student Organization For Boston and New England, The Student Voice, August 1960, p. 3

[4] Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and Black Awakening of the 1960s, p. 12

[5] Kneel-Ins, The Student Voice, August 1960, p. 3

[6] Kneel-Ins, The Student Voice, August 1960, p. 3

[7] Catherine Lawson, The Most Segregated Hour in America: Protesting Segregation in the Church, p. 1

[8]  Jonathan Bass. Blessed are the Peacemakers. (Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press),

[9] Kneel-Ins, The Student Voice, August 1960, p. 3

[10] Statement Made by the 172nd General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. Enclosed in a Letter From H.B. Sissel, Associate Secretary, The Student Voice, August 1960, p. 4

[11] Stephen R. Haynes, The Last Segregated Hour, p. 12

[12]  Stephen R. Haynes, The Last Segregated Hour, p. 14

[13] Harry Brooks, The Pittsburgh Courier;

[14] Carson, Clayborne. In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981.

[15] Hogan, Wesley C. Many Minds, One Heart, 72

[16] "U. S. Protection Sought for Registration Workers." 1962.Afro-American (1893-1988), Sep 08, 19. http://search.proquest.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/docview/532113379?accountid=14784.

[17] Hogan, Wesley C. Many Minds, One Heart, 80

[18] Hogan, Wesley C. Many Minds, One Heart, 88

[19] "3 Jailed for Urging Ga. Voter Registration." 1962.Chicago Daily Defender (Daily Edition) (1960-1973), Nov 05, 8. http://search.proquest.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/docview/493940397?accountid=14784.

[20] "Single Day in Miss. Sees 100 Seek Vote." Afro-American (1893-1988) (Baltimore), March 30, 1963.

[21] "Charge Ga. Office Shut To Halt Voter Drive." The Chicago Defender (National Edition) (1921-1967) (Chicago), April 13, 1963.

[22] "JFK's Civil Rights Proposals." Afro-American (1893-1988), Mar 16, 1963. http://search.proquest.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/docview/532231562?accountid=14784.

[23] By HENRY GEMMILL Staff Reporter of THE WALL,STREET JOURNAL. "Civil Rights March on Washington Orderly; Leaders Urge Diverse Courses of Action." Wall Street Journal (1923 - Current File), Aug 29, 1963. http://search.proquest.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/docview/132826148?accountid=14784.

[24] Hogan, Wesley C. Many Minds, One Heart, 61

[25] Hogan, Wesley C. Many Minds, One Heart, 62

[26] Carson, C. In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s. Harvard UP, 1981. Pg.112

[27] Carson, C. In Struggle. Pg.98

[28] Carson, C. In Struggle. Pg.99

[29] Carson, C. In Struggle.Pg.111

[30] Mississippi: Summer Work Ends, Start Freedom Move. New Pittsburgh Courier. Sep 12, 1964. Pg.3

[31] SNCC Reports Over 50 Mississippi Bombings. New Pittsburgh Courier. Nov 07, 1964. Pg.9

[32] Mississippi: Summer Work Ends, Start Freedom Move. New Pittsburgh Courier. Sep 12, 1964. Pg.3

[33] Mississippi: Summer Work Ends, Start Freedom Move. New Pittsburgh Courier. Sep 12, 1964. Pg.3

[34]“SNCC Plans Sit-Ins on Capitol Hill” The Washington Post, Times Herald, February 26, 1965, p. A5

[35] Martin Luther King Jr. and The Global Freedom Struggle, http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/index.html (accessed February 2016)

[36] “Voter Drive Spurred in Alabama.” New York Times, August 23, 1965, p. 19.

[37] Greenberg, A Circle of Trust, p. 11

[38] “More Militancy Seen As Result of Shake-Up In Civil-Rights Group: Leaders in Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee Are Ousted in Unexpected Move 1966.” Wall Street Journal, May 18, 1966, p. 14.

[39] Carson, In Struggle, 154

40 SNCC Sees Conspiracy In Draft, November 17, 1966, Chicago Daily Defender, pp. 5

[41] “SNCC Gains, Loses Fights 1966.” Chicago Daily Defender, Decemper 27, 1966, p. 4.

[42] “SNCC Leader Urges Flock Avoid U. S. Draft 1965.” Chicago Daily Defender, January 10, 1965, p. 6

[43] “SNCC Ousts Whites, SCLC admits them”, The Chicago Defender, September 9, 1966; “Bond Quits SNCC, has other plans”, Baltimore Afro-American, August 8, 1966

[45]“Friends and Foes call SNCC a segregated outfit”, Chicago Daily Defender, September 4, 1966

[46]Carl T. Rowan “Why SNCC Changed Course”, Los Angeles Times, June 1, 1966, p. A6

[47] Ibid., Carson, In Struggle, 244.

[48] Ibid.

[49] “S.N.C.C. Head Advises Negroes in Washington to Get Guns: BURNING CAPITAL URGED, IF NEEDED Brown Denounces Johnson and Racial Leaders Who Asked End to Violence,” New York Times, July 28, 1967.

[50] “Black Panther, SNCC Groups Form Alliance: Organizations Seek to Unify All Militant Black Units in Nation Into Political Party,” Los Angeles Times, July 23, 1968.

[51] “The Too-Violent Panthers: SNCC Split With BPP Is Blamed on 'Extremism' Of Latter as Well as on Rivalry for Power Exit Cutler Capital Capsules,” The Washington Post, November 3, 1968.

[52] Carson, In Struggle, 267-277

[53] “Black People Must Take Over Country: SNCC Leader,” Chicago Daily Defender, June 25, 1968.

[55] Wesley C. Hogan, Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC’s Dream for a New America, p.211

[56] Carson,  In Struggle.p.96