SNCC was the cutting edge of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. The organization wasn’t afraid to challenge the traditional civil rights leadership or the liberal political establishment when they placed political expediency over racial justice. When the Kennedy administration called for a cooling off period after the violent attacks on the Freedom Rides, SNCC stepped on the gas and refused to allow racist violence to deter the Movement. Similarly, SNCC refused to eulogize President Kennedy’s proposed civil rights bill at the March on Washington, saying it was too little, too late, especially in the wake of violence against SNCC workers in the Deep South.
SNCC’s vocal criticism often ruffled feathers within liberal and conservative political circles, but SNCC maintained its principles, even when it resulted in political backlash. In 1966, SNCC publicly denounced the War in Vietnam, which it viewed as an imperialistic enterprise. The statement, one of the first coming from the Civil Rights Movement, received a lot of negative publicity and hurt SNCC’s fundraising efforts. But the organization didn’t give in to the political pressure to retract the statement, and paved the way for others to come out against the war, including Dr. King.
SNCC’s policy statements were a way for the organization to declare what it stood for. They raised important issues with United State’s domestic and foreign policy and pushed the discourse of the Civil Right Movement in a more radical direction.