Happy Anniversary SNCC!

51 years ago this week, SNCC (The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) was born out of a student retreat called by Miss Ella Josephine Baker. Miss Baker brought many of the young sit-in protesters together at Shaw University in Raleigh because she recognized that the emerging leaders of the sit-in movement needed a way to network, to articulate their goals, and to grow as a blossoming movement.

The conference was attended by 126 student delegates from 58 sit-in centers in 12 states, along with almost 200 additional delegates from 19 northern colleges and a range of civil rights organizations. In their founding statement, they articulated a vision where non-violent action would replace hatred with love.

Miss Baker affirmed for the students that this was their group by advising, "Don't let anyone else, especially the older folks, tell you what to do." The group always remained independent from the other civil rights organizations of the time- demonstrating the importance of youth driven and youth led movements for social change. SNCC was also one of the first, if not only, groups of the era to approach decision making through consensus.

SNCC’s founding helped transform the sit-in student movement to a broad and sustained effort to work for civil rights and social justice. Additionally, SNCC ,which was essentially a South-wide coordinating committee enabled increasing numbers of young people to participate in a regional movement for freedom.

By 1965, SNCC fielded the largest staff of any civil rights organization in the South. It had organized nonviolent direct action against segregated facilities, as well as voter-registration projects across the region, built two independent political parties and organized labor unions and agricultural cooperatives, and given the movement for women's liberation new energy. It helped expand the limits of political debate within black America, and broadened the focus of the civil rights movement.

At the Ella Baker Center, we build on Miss Baker's legacy of guiding and inspiring emerging leaders. She recognized that, {C}We have rights only as long as we are willing to struggle for them.” And she focused on demonstrating that we all have a contribution to make in building the world we want to see. On the anniversary of SNCC's founding, I feel proud to be part of honoring its legacy.