They were attacked, beaten and, in some instances, murdered. Yet their assault on the system was based on a simple tenet: Fight with principle and in court, but don’t fight with violence.
SNCC’s leadership included well-recognized figures such as John Lewis, Diane Nash, Charles McDew, Julian Bond, Bernard Lafayette and Stokely Carmichael. In some ways today’s Black Lives Matter movement pulls from their legacy, in that it stresses decentralized leadership so multiple campaigns, tailored to the needs of a community, can be mounted simultaneously. If one person is arrested, the work of the organization goes on.
In later years, SNCC members questioned the efficacy of nonviolence and the group splintered. But SNCC’s essential role in fighting segregation had by then yielded results such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
As former SNCC leader and current U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., now says, SNCC believed in getting in “good trouble.”
Celebrate Black History Month
Throughout February, we'll spotlight a different African-American pioneer in the daily Living section Monday through Thursday and Saturday, and in the Metro section on Fridays and Sundays. Go to myAJC.com/black-history-month for more subscriber exclusives on people, places and organizations that have changed the world, and to see videos on the African-American pioneer featured here each day.
Celebrating Black History Month- The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee