On this dayApr 15, 1960

Birth of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

Image | The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Legacy Project

On April 15, 1960, black college students guided by civil rights activist Ella Baker formed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at Shaw University in North Carolina. Inspired by the sit-ins that college students waged throughout the South in February 1960, Ella Baker organized a conference at Shaw University to bring these young activists together. Members of the new student organization, known as SNCC (pronounced “snick”), dedicated themselves to challenging segregation by following the nonviolent, direct action practices of Reverend James Lawson and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Some of SNCC’s most well-known members include Diane Nash, John Lewis, Julian Bond, Marion Barry, Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture), Bernard Lafayette, and James Bevel.

Through nonviolent demonstrations and grassroots organizing, SNCC furthered the goals of the civil rights movement by empowering and organizing young people to challenge injustice on their own terms. Instead of acting as a youth division of other civil rights organizations, SNCC maintained independence as a group and created their own strategies to further the struggle for freedom. SNCC became a powerful organizing force by coordinating continuing sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters throughout the South and organizing voter registration efforts in their local communities. In 1961, SNCC joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to launch Freedom Rides: interracial bus riding campaigns designed to test compliance with a 1960 Supreme Court ruling that outlawed segregation in interstate travel facilities. Many Southern states had nonetheless retained their segregated bus terminals and restaurants, and the Freedom Riders challenged them at each stop along their journey, facing violence, threats, and arrest. The activists continued the rides anyway, gaining national attention for their perseverance in spite of danger and brutality.

In the latter half of the 1960s, increasingly divided ideologies emerged within the SNCC organization as members debated the efficacy of nonviolent tactics, among other issues. By the early 1970s, the group had lost most of its members and influence as new splinter organizations emerged. SNCC’s impact on the civil rights movement rippled out across the United States, inspired other movements for decades afterward, and demonstrated that young people have the power to further the fight for justice.

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