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Overview

One of the most important civil rights groups in the late '50s and early '60s, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was also to become one of the most controversial in its later years. Formed by student activists nationwide in response to the burgeoning student sit-in movement in 1960, the SNCC adopted the Gandhian theories of nonviolent direct action, which had been formulated by CORE in the 1940s.

Now students in African-American studies, history, sociology, and others interested in the civil rights movement can use this collection as a base of essential data for studying the projects, dynamic leaders, and motives of the movement. The collection includes correspondence, project files, internal reports, and printed materials generated by the SNCC organization as it challenged racial barriers, faced internal crises, and sought a leadership role in the fight for desegregation, voter's rights, and black power.

The development of the SNCC can be assessed and compared with other organizations of the period. Among historical landmarks for study are:

 

  • John Lewis's election as SNCC chairman in 1963, which signaled the start of the organization's most active period. SNCC field secretaries were involved in the Birmingham demonstrations, and Lewis gave a major speech at the August 1963 March on Washington.
  • The Mississippi Summer Project in 1964, which brought the SNCC national prominence. This massive project assembled hundreds of volunteers in the deep South to participate in voter registration and citizenship education drives. During this time, the SNCC also worked closely with CORE and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
  • The election of Stokely Carmichael as SNCC chairman marked the radicalization of the group as Carmichael moved to identify the SNCC with the militant Black Power Movement. His action resulted in the resignation of many of the group's key leaders.
  • The 1967 election of H. Rap Brown as chairman marked an even greater shift toward militarism. Brown's election, coupled with the SNCC's support of the Arab position during the Arab-Israeli War, cut off virtually all funding from white liberal supporters and led to the organization's collapse in 1970 from loss of leadership and funds.

Through the use of this valuable and historical collection, students can explore the ideals and impact of the SNCC as part of the Culture of Dissent, and analyze parallels and differences between it and other civil rights organizations.

The collection was filmed from the holdings of the Library and Archives of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia. The materials represent an essential tool for any complete study of the civil rights movement in America.

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