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Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Founding Statement (1960)


On 1 February 1960, four African American college students staged a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, thus firing the opening salvo in what would become a widespread national movement. Eager to coordinate the resulting sit in movement rapidly spreading through the southern United States, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) officer Ella Baker gathered student protest leaders in Raleigh, North Carolina, for an Easter weekend strategy session. It was during these meetings that the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was born. A potent force for social change, the SNCC organized or participated in numerous nonviolent segregation protests, voter registration drives, and Freedom Rides throughout much of the turbulent 1960s. Often running afoul of local authorities, SNCC members willingly accepted jail time as the consequence of their activities, and employed a "jail, no bail" strategy intended to dramatically demonstrate the depth of their convictions. The late 1960s, however, brought a philosophical change to the SNCC. Many members, frustrated by the seeming intransigence of racial injustice, began to advocate a more radical approach to achieving the organization's goals. Elected chairman in 1966, Stokely Carmichael espoused "Black Power" and a belief in Black separatism, a move that frustrated many of SNCC's mainstream political allies. By the end of the decade, the organization had switched its focus from grass-roots community activism to an emphasis on sometimes-unpopular ideological issues. By the early 1970s, already largely irrelevant in American politics, the SNCC ceased to exist.

Laura M.Miller,
Vanderbilt University

See also Civil Rights Movement ; Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee .

We affirm the philosophical or religious ideal of nonviolence as the foundation of our purpose, the presupposition of our belief, and the manner of our action.

Nonviolence, as it grows from the Judeo-Christian tradition, seeks a social order of justice permeated by love. Integration of human endeavor represents the crucial first step towards such a society.

Through nonviolence, courage displaces fear. Love transcends hate. Acceptance dissipates prejudice; hope ends despair. Faith reconciles doubt. Peace dominates war. Mutual regards cancel enmity. Justice for all over-throws injustice. The redemptive community supersedes immoral social systems.

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.

Although each local group in this movement must diligently work out the clear meaning of this statement of purpose, each act or phase of our corporate effort must reflect a genuine spirit of love and good-will.

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