Continuing the work of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, challenging racism since the 1960s

The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced SNIcK) emerged in 1960 as part of the sit-in movement across the Southern United States. Over the decade and into the 1970s, SNCC worked on human and civil rights issues, electoral politics, education, de-segregation, self-empowerment, and Black Power. SNCC directly challenged white power and provided a political home for young Black people wanting to transform society.

"The SNCC Legacy Project reflects a continuation of SNCC's work. The SNCC Legacy Project Digital Movement Platform tells its history and aims to motivate people toward the future through bridging generations."

This comprehensive web archive has timelines, maps, essays, photos, audio, video interviews, and commentary about current political issues like the Black Lives Matter movement. It is worth noting the choice to make available this expansive archive on the internet rather than in a university library that might limit access and use.

Origin Stories

"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."

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), whose most well-known figure was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., initially wanted to bring the emerging sit-in movement into the organization's fold. Were it not for Ella Baker, the executive director of SCLC, and her intervention at the Shaw College gathering to create a space for these young people to organize autonomously from the existing civil rights organization, the Black Power movement might have looked different.

"[Baker's] fundamental message to the students was, 'Organize from the bottom up.' She emphasized her belief that "Strong people don't need strong leaders." Check out this short video about Baker's role in SCLC and SNCC. Here is a short clip from "Fundi: The Story of Ella Baker," made in 1981. You can rent the full video here.

"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."

There is a direct link from SNCC to the Black Panther Party. In 1965, "Stokely Carmichael was determined to organize an independent Black political party. They found a willing partner in John Hulett, who, with a small group of other Black Lowndes County residents, had already organized the Lowndes County Christian Movement for Human Rights. Together with SNCC, they now organized the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO), with Mr. Hulett as its chair. The party's symbol was a pouncing black panther." Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama's Black Belt, by Hasan Kwame Jeffries, is a terrific source. Check out this short video about Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) and Black Power.

In 1966, the figure of a black panther was chosen by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton as the name and image for a new political formation that would transform politics in the US and across the globe: The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Here is a short video on the origins of the Black Panther Party.