During the African American Civil Right Movement of the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X came to represent two very different approaches to the issues. Dr. King advocated the use of nonviolence as a means of achieving full civil rights for blacks. By comparison, Malcolm X, one of the primary leaders and spokespersons for the Nation of Islam, did not object to the use of violence to achieve black goals.
Earlier lunch-counter sit-ins that took place in Greensboro, NC, in violation of segregation laws, inspired the organization of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), pronounced 'Snick'. Participants in the sit-ins included black students from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical College. Initially, SNCC aligned itself with Dr. King's nonviolent approach to civil rights.
Origins of SNCC
Under the influence of Ella Baker, a leader and member of Dr. King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), young civil rights leaders formed SNCC in April 1960. Ella Baker was among the organizers of an April 1960 conference held at Shaw University in Raleigh, NC, attended by students from over 50 colleges and high schools, representing 13 states and 37 different communities.
Conference attendees and founding members of SNCC included Marion Barry, who later became mayor of Washington, D.C.; John Lewis, who was later elected Congressman from Georgia's 5th District and Stokely Carmichael, who had earlier helped to found the Lowndes County Freedom Organization in Alabama, an organization dedicated to voter registration for blacks. Carmichael later became famous for his references to the term, 'black power.'
The SCLC provided SNCC with an $800 grant to start the organization; Baker served as an adviser. Although the SCLC originally thought SNCC would serve as its youth wing, the latter functioned independently from the beginning. Even though SNCC initially embraced nonviolence as a means of effecting change, group members also made statements indicating that violence could be an option in the future.
Members of SNCC participated in some of the most significant events of the African Civil Rights Movement. For example, in the summer of 1961, they participated in the Freedom Rides. In partnership with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Freedom Riders sought to expose racial discrimination, in spite of federal protection on public transportation.
In 1963, SNCC played a major role in the organization and staging of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the site of Dr. Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream Speech'.
SNCC was also very much involved in voter registration in Dallas County, AL, which included the city of Selma. On March 7, 1965, a number of SNCC members were badly beaten in what came to be known as Bloody Sunday. On that day, law enforcement officials violently attacked peaceful marchers who crossed the Edmund Pettis Bridge on their way from Selma to Montgomery, AL.
SNCC and Black Power
By the mid-1960s, some SNCC leaders became disillusioned with Dr. King's nonviolent approach to civil rights and turned instead to the Black Power Movement. As a political and social force, the Black Power Movement served as an advocate for black autonomy, nationalism and pride; some followers were also in favor of black separatism.
Disillusioned leaders included Stokely Carmichael, who was arrested more than 30 times at demonstrations and events. Many of his fellow activists were beaten, disfigured and killed. For example, in January 1966, a gas station attendant in Tuskegee, AL, shot college student and SNCC worker, Sammy Younge Jr., to death after he used a 'white' bathroom. Other demoralizing events included the 6-day Watts riots in Los Angeles, CA, in 1965. Sparked by the arrest of a black man, the riots caused $40 million in damages and resulted in 34 deaths.
In 1966, the more radical Stokely Carmichael replaced John Lewis as head of the SNCC. However, when SNCC faced bankruptcy in 1967, Carmichael voluntarily stepped down. His successor, H. Rap Brown, was associated with the Black Panther Party. Brown renamed SNCC The Student National Coordinating Committee. By the 1970's, SNCC had virtually ceased to exist, who were either expelled for left the organization for the more militant Black Panther Party.
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was established in April 1960 by young civil rights organizers and veterans of the lunch-counter sit-ins in Greensboro, NC. Ella Baker, a leader and member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), served as an adviser. SCLC also provided SNCC with an $800 grant to establish the organization.
SNCC was involved in some of the more notable events of the African American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, including the Freedom Rides and the March from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama. Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his Southern Christian Leadership conference, SNCC initially took a nonviolent approach to civil rights for African Americans.
As SNCC leaders and workers, like Stokely Carmichael and Sammy Younge, continued to face arrests, beatings and death, some SNCC leaders and members embraced the Black Power Movement and more militant organizations like the Black Panthers.
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