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The Southern Youth Movement
by Julian Bond
(Communications Director, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee)

Originally published in Freedomways, Summer, 1962

See Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Founded for background & more information.
See also Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) for web links.

It was with great interest that I read Reader's Forum by Wilfred Callender (Freedomways, Spring 1962). I was a little distressed that there was no mention in his piece of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the organization I work for.

SNCC, or "snick" as Attorney Len Holt calls us in his article "A Southern Lawyer Speaks of Freedom" (Freedomways, Spring 1962), was founded at a conference of student sit-in leaders in Raleigh, North Carolina, in April 1960. Called by SCLC, the gathering was a needed one, for although the chief virtue of the student protest movement has been its spontaneity, there was a need for communication between the students, a need for an exchange of techniques, and a need for a coordination of effort.

At Raleigh, a committee was formed with one representative from each state. Marion Barry, then a student at Fisk University, was elected chairman. We established a small office in Atlanta, hired an executive secretary, and began the tedious business of trying to coordinate a movement, inform others about the goals and aims of the struggle, and to raise funds to provide scholarship aid for students expelled from school.

By the early spring of 1961, however, it became clear that something more was needed. Too many students had been interested only in lunch counter integration; when this goal was reached, their movements became dormant. Someone would have to breathe new life into these areas, and someone would have to take the gospel of the movement into areas where there had been no action.

Members of the Coordinating Committee volunteered. They were on the Freedom Rides last summer. They were in McComb, Mississippi, and helped to begin the first action movement in that state. They began a voter registration drive in rural Mississippi counties, and were shot at, beaten, and jailed. They were in Albany, Georgia, as long ago as October 1961, and were there to go to jail with 737 Albanites. They are still there, working in Georgia's "terrible" Terrell County, registering voters in an area where 6 new Negro names on the voter's list is a victory. They were in Talladega, Alabama, when 200 students were beaten two blocks through the city by state troopers. They were in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa, and they will be in other small towns as well. They were in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when Southern University was closed down, and they suffered for their presence there. Three SNCC staffers — two Negroes, one white — were arrested there for "criminal anarchy." One spent 59 days in jail.

These young people — 20 in all — three white, are sitting in, registering voters, and giving instructions in the all-important "how" in small towns and back counties all over the South. When workers for most civil rights organizations receive salaries which equal the dangerous work they do, these youngsters receive only what we laughingly call "subsistence" pay. Three staff members, who are married, receive $60 a week. Thirteen others get $40 a week. Four are working full time in Mississippi for only $20 a week. Our office is located on Atlanta's Auburn Avenue, and has been given us rent-free. We exist on contributions from "interested friends."

I think it is a grave mistake for Callendar to say that "by their very nature the sit-ins could not have the benefit of coordination." This past weekend we have had a meeting, in Atlanta, of 45 student leaders who represent their local protest groups in 6 Southern states. These students make up SNCC's Coordinating Committee, and they are able to coordinate the activities of student groups in their areas. In April of this year we held a conference in Atlanta, and over 300 students attended. We discussed the value of jail versus bail, got legal advice from talented lawyers, made plans for coordinated efforts against segregation, and pledged to send representatives to SNCC Coordinating Committee meetings.

We issue a monthly newsletter, the Student Voice, which gives news of student activity in the South. It is available to your readers for the asking, by writing to our office, 135 Auburn Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia.

SNCC is an independent organization. We work with local citizens and groups in an attempt to initiate direct action and voter registration programs. SNCC does not speak for the movement, for no one does, and no one can. But SNCC is working in the South in areas no other civil rights group has ever been to, with farmers, domestics, laborers, and people who really want to be free.

Copyright © Julian Bond, 1962.

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