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Inside SNCC

Establishing SNCC

Students sit-in at Nashville lunch counter, [1960], crmvet.org

SCLC executive director Ella Baker recognized the student sit-in movement as an idea whose time had come. On Easter weekend in 1960 at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, she brought sit-in leaders from all over the South together for the first time. Unlike other adult leaders at the conference, Baker encouraged the budding activists to form their own organization and dedicate themselves fully to the Black Freedom Struggle. They embraced her suggestion and formed the temporary Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

SNCC quickly dropped the temporary from its name, as some student activists began to drop out of school to become full-time organizers. Dubbed SNCC field secretaries, they initiated voter registration projects in the Mississippi Delta, Southwest Georgia, and other Black Belt areas in the Deep South. At its height, SNCC had more field secretaries in the South than any other civil rights organization, an indication of its dedication to grassroots community organizing. SNCC workers organized in the most oppressed communities in the Deep South, helping local Black people in their own struggle for freedom.