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The Southern Youth
by Julian Bond
(Communications Director, Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Originally published in Freedomways, Summer,
See Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Founded for background & more
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.