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From Sit-ins to SNCC: the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee Statement of Purpose


In the two months following the start of the Greensboro sit-ins, black students organized more than fifty similar protests across the South. In April, students—aided by veteran activist Ella Baker and supported by funding from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)—created the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to coordinate the protests. As their founding statement indicates, they embraced principles of nonviolence enunciated by leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. (head of the SCLC) and embodied in the sit-in movement. King assumed SNCC would be an arm of the SCLC, but it was from the start an independent voice of the student protesters and a highly influential force in the Civil Rights movement.

We affirm the philosophical or religious ideal of nonviolence as the foundation of our purpose, the presupposition of our belief, and the manner of our action. Nonviolence, as it grows from the Judeo-Christian tradition, seeks a social order of justice permeated by love. Integration of human endeavor represents the crucial first step towards such a society.

Through nonviolence, courage displaces fear. Love transcends hate. Acceptance dissipates prejudice; hope ends despair. Faith reconciles doubt. Peace dominates war. Mutual regards cancel enmity. Justice for all overthrows injustice. The redemptive community supersedes immoral social systems.

By appealing to conscience and standing on the moral nature of human existence, nonviolence nurtures the atmosphere in which reconciliation and justice become actual possibilities.


"Statement Submitted by the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee to the Platform Committee of the National Democratic Convention, June 7, 1960, Los Angeles, CA." Quoted in Claybornee Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960 [1981], (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995) 23-24.