Leflore – Organizations

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

Considered one of the most integral organizations in the 1960s, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced “Snick”) functioned to offer young people a voice during the Civil Rights Movement. SNCC was founded during the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) hosted at Shaw University in April of 1960. The meeting was organized by Ella Baker, and SNCC was adamant during its formation that it would function separately from other Civil Rights organizations to facilitate their own projects and strategies.

SNCC was most prominent in states such as Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, and Maryland as they played major roles in the early 1960s by participating in various sit-ins and the freedom rides of 1961. The organization shifted focus in 1962-1966 to increase voter registration for people of color, a project that was initiated in McComb, MS. SNCC also participated in the March on Washington in 1963, the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964, and were advocates for the formation of the Mississippi Democratic Party in 1964.

After the Democratic Convention of 1964, a dichotomy began to emerge as members began to grapple with the ideology of non-violence as a core value of the organization. One group favored a nonviolent approach while others began to favor black power and Marxism. Under the leadership of Stokely Carmichael as the chairmen of SNCC from 1966-1967, SNCC pulled away from its philosophy of nonviolence. Other members began to question how much longer SNCC could stay nonviolent and remain an effective organization in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1969, SNCC was officially renamed the Student National Coordinating Committee, abandoning their guiding principle of nonviolence. SNCC largely disappeared by the early 1970s due to a decline in funding, ambiguity amongst leadership, and disconnect in organizational philosophy.

History.com (2009). SNCC. Retrieved from: http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/sncc

King Encyclopedia (2017). Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Retrieved from: http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_student_nonviolent_coordinating_committee_sncc/

NAACP of Leflore County

Leflore County was where early local civil rights efforts met the national movement. This collision caused conflict early in the Civil Rights Movement. Payne describes how in the 1950’s, efforts by the black community to start a local chapter of the NAACP failed several times. The local chapter was originally formed in 1952 but went through a period of inactivity before being reformed in both 1956 and 1958. While those within other local civic and church organizations began to meld their ideas and objectives with those of national organizations, it seems the labeling of a group as “the NAACP”invited negative attention – a backlash – from the white community, and was therefore abandoned, or would at least weaken in strength and numbers to be ineffective.

Sources:

Parker, Frank. Black Votes Count: Political Empowerment in Mississippi After 1965.

Payne, Charles. I’ve Got the Light of Freedom.

SNCC, CORE, COFO of Leflore

National support to the local region that ultimately helped turned the tide toward voting equality came to Leflore County in the 1960s. The Kennedy administration created the Voter Education Project which gave support to national organizations who sent in local economic and volunteer support to voter registration efforts. In 1962, multiple civil rights organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) came into Leflore County and Greenwood for the sole objective of registering blacks to vote. Locals who had been influenced by these organizations from the state and national level first began to make inroads into the community – like activist Sam Block from Cleveland. Their entrance was slow and extremely labored, volunteers working door to door and living hand to mouth. Workers were arrested and put in jail on sham charges. They were harassed by officials and often had to change living and working locations lest those locals who were giving them support suffer as well.

Sources:

Parker, Frank. Black Votes Count: Political Empowerment in Mississippi After 1965.

Payne, Charles. I’ve Got the Light of Freedom.

Mississippi Valley State University

Mississippi Valley State University is one of three state public historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) in the State of Mississippi. The state legislature passed laws to establish MVSU – then called “Mississippi Vocational College”- in 1946. The goal of the college was to train teachers for rural and elementary schools and to provide vocational training.

The college, the eighth of Mississippi’s institutions of higher learning, opened in the summer of 1950. The first full academic year, 1950-51, began with fourteen regular students and seven faculty members. The college offered the Bachelor of Science degree in fourteen areas and provided Extension Services.

In 1964, the name was changed to Mississippi Valley State College and began offering liberal arts, science, and education degrees. In 1974, the college was granted the status of being a “university.” MVSU started its graduate program in 1976.

Sources:

Parker, Frank. Black Votes Count: Political Empowerment in Mississippi After 1965.

Payne, Charles. I’ve Got the Light of Freedom.