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Inside SNCC

Alliances & Relationships

Down on the ground at the grassroots, the Civil Rights Movement involved joint efforts by an array of individuals and organizations. And while their strategies and goals were not always in sync, their collective work gave depth to the freedom struggle.

Left to right: Bob Moses, Julian Bond, Curtis Hayes, unidientified, Hollis Watkins, Amzie Moore, and E.W. Steptoe, 1963, crmvet.org

Left to right: Bob Moses, Julian Bond, Curtis Hayes, unidientified, Hollis Watkins, Amzie Moore, and E.W. Steptoe, 1963, crmvet.org

SNCC stood on the shoulders of an older generation of organizers, many of whom were active in local NAACP branches. SNCC could not have possibly organized in the rural Black Belt South without their help. They welcomed SNCC field secretaries into their homes and communities and supported their projects despite risks that included the possibility of being killed.

SNCC forged relationships with other civil rights groups as well. In Mississippi, for instance, the young activists of SNCC and CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) often worked so closely together that in local communities they were lumped together as “freedom riders” and “the nonviolents.”

Left to Right: John Lewis (SNCC), unidentified boy, Mateo

Left to Right: John Lewis (SNCC), unidentified boy, Mateo “Flukie” Suarez (CORE), Jerome Smith (CORE), Dave Dennis (CORE), undated, crmvet.org

At the national level, SNCC developed a network of supporting organizations that bolstered the organization’s work. SCEF (Southern Conference Educational Fund) drummed up bail money and publicity, while the Highlander Folk School opens its doors for workshops and conferences. The National Lawyers Guild and other pro bono lawyers provided legal counsel when SNCC folks were arrested on dubious charges because of their civil rights work.

While the traditional narrative of the Civil Rights Movement focuses on a few prominent civil rights leaders, the Movement’s real power lay with the collaborative work found among this wealth of people and organizations.