When young activists from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) began organizing in the Deep South, they united with local people who had long been engaged in a struggle for Black Power in practice, if not in name. Despite terrorism, repression, and reprisals, they built a grassroots movement for change that empowered the Black community…and transformed the nation. The SNCC Digital Gateway: Learn from the Past, Organize for the Future, Make Democracy Work portrays how SNCC, alongside thousands of local Black residents, worked for Black people to take control of their political and economic lives. It also unveils the inner workings of SNCC as an organization, examining how it coordinated sit-ins and freedom schools, voter registration and economic cooperatives, anti-draft protests and international solidarity struggles.
The people profiled in the SNCC Digital Gateway range from SNCC field staff to local people, and from older mentors to “unexpected actors.” We selected them for the important role they played in the struggle for black empowerment in the southern Freedom Struggle. The local people–sharecroppers and domestic workers, World War II veterans and high school students–represent the many who took SNCC organizers in, webbed those organizers into the community, and put their own bodies on the line for the fight for freedom. Another crucial element in our decision-making was to shine light on the unexpected actors and emphasize those at the grassroots level who have been most often obscured by history. There are countless others whose stories are as important as the people that SNCC Digital Gateway profiles. The criteria of geographic location, a person’s centrality to the struggle for voting rights, and their position at the grassroots of the Movement helped guide the Editorial Board’s prioritization of profiles within the project constraints. If you would like to suggest additional people who might be profiled on the SNCC Digital Gateway, please let us know through our Contact Us form.
The SNCC Digital Gateway’s map is a portal that connects users to the people who worked and the events that happened in a specific place—a way to explore how the Movement developed over time in local communities. SNCC organizers worked in numerous places across the South, moving between projects depending on where the need was. When deciding who would be included in each location, we attempted to include SNCC organizers who had spent a significant amount of time working in a project or whose profile on the SNCC Digital Gateway included a story tied to a particular place. We are committed to portraying an accurate representation of SNCC’s history, so if you believe that someone should be added to a location, please let us know through our Contact Us form.
White southerners, as part of the daily repertoire of white supremacy, systematically refused to use courtesy titles when referring to Black people. As civil rights scholar Charles Payne notes, “Southern Blacks had to struggle for the use of ‘courtesy titles’ and thus often had a different appreciation for them.” Young activists in the Movement deliberately chose to call their elders Mrs. and Mr. as a symbol of their respect. In honor of this history and these decisions, we have chosen to refer to respected movement elders, such as Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer, as Miss Baker and Mrs. Hamer or alternately, by their last name. With this decision, the SNCC Digital Gateway seeks to pass on the tradition of respecting elders that was deeply embedded in the Movement.
The SNCC Digital Gateway introduces individuals by their full names and indicates the informal name they were known by in the Movement in quotes, ex. Charles “Chuck” McDew. Individuals are then referred to by their last names as a measure of respect. In profiles of entire families, individuals are introduced by their full names but then are referred to by their first name for the sake of clarity.
The SNCC Digital Gateway uses the name that people were known by in the Movement. If an individual changed his or her name later, their changed name is noted in parentheses in the content of the profile. Married names are indicated in parentheses in profile titles. Some women, such as Bernice Johnson (Reagon) and Colia Liddell (Lafayette), changed their names during their time associated with SNCC. Within profiles, these women are referred to by the last name they were using at that particular historical moment.
The SNCC Digital Gateway capitalizes Movement because the people who were “in the Movement” tended to capitalize it and talk about it as if it were capitalized.
The SNCC Digital Gateway is committed to providing sustainable, free online access to a new interpretive framework of SNCC’s history. The digitized primary source materials included in the SNCC Digital Gateway are made available by archives and repositories across the country. In order to ensure that the SNCC Digital Gateway can continue providing access to this history over the long term, we only link to materials at institutions with a track record of providing persistent digital access and that have a sustainability plan for their digital collections.
The primary and secondary sources listed in the sources section of specific pages include those that were consulted in the writing of content for the SNCC Digital Gateway. They either include page numbers when specific pages of a work were consulted or cite the entire work when it was used as a broader reference. The sources are not meant to be an exhaustive list of all available sources. The same is true for the Secondary Sources page in the Resources section.
Your feedback is important to us as we work to improve and expand the SNCC Digital Gateway. Please send us your comments, corrections, and suggestions by using the Contact Us form found at the bottom of each page.