Becoming SNCC

Charles Cobb’s Perspective, SNCC Field Secretary, 1962-1967

Photograph of Charles Cobb by Julius Lester,

The way SNCC became SNCC is both ordinary and extraordinary; and these two audio discussions narrated by former SNCC field secretary, Charlie Cobb, reflect beginnings that shaped the organization. The starting point is the sit-in protests against segregation and white supremacy that initially brought together the student activists who would form SNCC. Although these sit-ins that first erupted in Greensboro, North Carolina on February 1, 1960 were spontaneous and spread rapidly across the South, they quickly became the foundation for a major organization because of one of the most significant figures of 20th century social change, Ella Baker. Using the voices of participants in SNCC’s founding conference, the first of these audio stories discusses how the students first came together, and why “Miss Baker” as she was known in SNCC was so crucial to the emergence of the organization.

Listen to “Becoming SNCC”

The second of these audio stories, SNCC and Nonviolence, begins an explanation of one of the least understood aspects of the SNCC and the southern freedom movement: nonviolence. It brought into what was essentially political struggle, a discussion of something larger than simply desegregating lunch counters and other public facilities. And the name of their organization, notwithstanding, most SNCC activists were not committed to it as a way of life in the manner of Mohandas Gandhi or Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonetheless, for many in SNCC, commitment to the movement, and commitment to the organization, enabled commitment to nonviolence as a practical tactic.

Listen to “SNCC and Nonviolence”