Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

Profile.
Key Civil Rights Movement organization of the 1960s.

  • Time Periods: People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974, 20th Century | Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements, Democracy & Citizenship, Organizing | Reading Levels: Adult, High School | Resource Types: Profiles

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was founded in April 1960, by young people who had emerged as leaders of the sit-in protest movement initiated on February 1 of that year. Here are a few key articles and recommended books on the history, philosophy, and legacy of SNCC.

SNCC workers prepare to go to Belzoni, Miss., in the Fall of 1963 to organize for the Freedom Vote. Courtesy of www.crmvet.org.

SNCC workers prepare to go to Belzoni, Miss., in the Fall of 1963 to organize for the Freedom Vote. Photo: Courtesy of Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement.

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The SNCC Story from the One Person, One Vote Website

Young activists and organizers with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, represented a radical, new unanticipated force whose work continues to have great relevance today. For the first time, young people decisively entered the ranks of civil rights movement leadership. They committed themselves to full-time organizing from the bottom-up, and with this approach empowered older efforts at change and facilitated the emergence of powerful new grassroots voices.

Continue reading the story of SNCC story at the One Person, One Vote website.

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Julian Bond. Photo: Harvey Richards.

SNCC: What We Did

“Strong people don’t need strong leaders,” Ella Baker told us. We were strong people; we did strong things. These are some of the things we did.

It began for me as it did for many others in early 1960. On February 4, I was sitting in a cafe near my college campus in Atlanta, Georgia. It was our hangout, a place where students went between—or instead of—classes. A fellow student named Lonnie King approached me with a copy of that day’s Atlanta Daily World, the local black newspaper. The headline read: GREENSBORO STUDENTS SIT-IN FOR THIRD DAY!

Continue reading in “SNCC: What We Did” by Julian Bond in The Monthly Review.

Pictured, left to right: Charles Neblett, Bernice Johnson, Cordell Reagon and Rutha Harris in 1963.

Charles Neblett, Bernice Johnson, Cordell Reagon, and Rutha Harris in 1963.

The Borning Struggle: An Interview with Bernice Johnson Reagon

Bernice Johnson Reagon describes the work of SNCC in Albany, Georgia including Freedom Rides, voter registration,  inter-generational collaboration, the role of music, and an analysis of the movement’s impact on the people of Albany. Reagon also describes how SNCC and the Civil Rights Movement laid the foundation for other social movements of the 1960s and 70s. “My point is that the Civil Rights Movement [bore] not just the Black Power Movement, but every progressive struggle that has occurred in this country since that time.”

Read “The Borning Struggle: An Interview with Bernice Johnson Reagon” by Dick Cluster in Radical America. (“Borning Struggle” is the first article in the attached journal.)

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Stokely Carmichael, Charles Cobb Jr., and George Greene, Dec. 1963. © Danny Lyon/Magnum.

SNCC: The Importance of its Work, the Value of its Legacy

You can never tell when a spark will light a fire. So, on February 1, 1960 when four Black students attending North Carolina A&T College sat down at the lunch counter in a Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth Department store, ordered food, were refused service and then remained seated until the store closed, few could have predicted how rapidly similar protests would spread across the south; or the lasting impact on the south and the nation of the sudden direct action by these students.

Over the next two months, student sit-ins spread to 80 southern cities and were involving thousands of young people, most of them attending historically black colleges and universities like A&T, although in several cities high school students launched and led sit-ins. Two and a half months after Greensboro—the weekend of April 15-17—student sit-in leaders gathered at Shaw College (now Shaw University) in Raleigh, North Carolina to meet one another, share experiences and to discuss coordinating future actions.

Continue reading in “SNCC: The Importance of its Work, the Value of its Legacy” by Charles Cobb Jr. on the SNCC Legacy Project website.

Timothy L. Jenkins at 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer conference.

Timothy L. Jenkins at the Freedom Summer 50th anniversary conference.

 

SNCC Truth Telling Time: People of the Day Before Yesterday, Reach Out to People of the Day After Tomorrow

Some two score and ten years ago a green band of patriots dared to pledge their lives, misfortunes and sacred honor to the proposition that human dignity can and must be a universal birthright; not as a dream or a mere declaration of principle, but as a constant struggle. On February 1, 1960, four students from A&T College, an historically black school in Greensboro, North Carolina, demanded service at a local lunch counter in Woolworth’s retail store in defiance of local laws forbidding integrated seating. Within a few months sit-ins by mostly black college students erupted across the South. The atomic energy unleashed by the student sit-in explosion importantly altered the course of social and political life in the United States and measurably influenced the course of human rights history throughout the world.

Dedicated to social change without resort to force or brutality, we by no accident named ourselves the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; colloquially abbreviated to SNCC and vocalized as “snick.” The commitment to avoiding violence came to some as a religious conviction and to others as the best tactic for avoiding disastrous confrontations with mobs and police.

Continue reading in “SNCC Truth Telling Time: People of the Day Before Yesterday, Reach Out to People of the Day After Tomorrow” by Timothy L. Jenkins, a talk at the 50th anniversary of SNCC at Shaw University.

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More SNCC Resources

View the collection of books, films, and websites about SNCC on the Zinn Education Project website that includes some of the titles featured on the Related Materials list below.

Related Materials

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