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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/

Moses, Robert “Bob”

Robert Moses was born in 1935 and was a major contributor towards the fight towards social equity for all, becoming a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement.

Moses first got involved with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Following SCLC, he joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960 as a field secretary. In 1962, Moses transitioned to a strategic coordinator and project director with the Council of Federated Organization (COFO) in Mississippi. As one of the main organizer’s of COFO’s Freedom Summer Project, he played an integral role in achieving widespread voter registration of blacks in Mississippi. In addition, Moses was a driving force in organizing the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) which challenged the segregationist-dominated Mississippi Democratic Party delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, a critical point in time that brought national awareness to the civil rights struggle occurring in Mississippi.

Moses is the President and Founder and President of the Algebra Project Inc., whose goal is to bring math literacy to low income citizens by utilizing mathematics as an organizing tool to ensure quality public school education for every child in America.

Sources:

“Board & Staff.” The Algebra Project, www.algebra.org/staff.php#moses.

Cheam, Bunthay. “Moses, Robert P. (1935-).” The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed, www.blackpast.org/aah/moses-robert-p-1935.

“Robert ‘Bob’ Moses.” Mississippi Freedom Summer 50th, WordPress, freedom50.org/moses/.

Nicholas, Jessie Divens: Oral History

Jessie Divens Nicholas is a native of McComb, Mississippi. She grew up with her three siblings and her mother. Her father died in the army. Her mother, Ruth Divens, worked as a business woman, which allowed her to encourage her children to participant in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. Her mother would house Civil Rights workers, and Nicholas recalls conversations her mother had with leaders such as C.C. Bryant.

As a result of her participation in the Burglund High School Walkout at 12 years old, Nicholas was forced to attend school in Jackson, MS along with others who were arrested. She attended Christ the King Catholic School. During Freedom Summer (1964), Nicholas taught adults how to read so they could fill out forms. She also followed Robert ‘Bob’ Moses during his rounds and helped him. In addition, her step-father lost his job because of Nicholas’ part in the movement. She went to jail for refusing to give up her seat to a White woman, and she also spoke her mind to a judge with the permission of her mother. Nicholas helped to integrate the school, but after two days, she refused to return before the names she was called and the treatment she received. She also helped to integrate the movie theater but refused to go back. In these videos, we see the place Nicholas’ mother had in Nicholas’ involvement in the movement and her desire to have the youth learn about McComb’s part in the Civil Rights Movement.

Jessie Divens Nicholas’ oral history, part one:

Pike County – Jessie Divens Nicholas 01 from Winter Institute on Vimeo.

Jessie Divens Nicholas’ oral history interviews can also be found here.

Source:

William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation

Pike – Documents

McComb Daily Journal 9.19.1935

Corstarphen, Lillie: Oral History

Lillie Corstarphen grew up in the rural area of Pike County on a farm with her family. She grew up with five brothers, five sisters, and her parents. Despite farming the land for someone else and living below the poverty line, Corstarphen says that she was never poor because of her family and had a good childhood. When Corstarphen was to enter the ninth grade, her family moved to McComb, Mississippi, where she attended Burglund High School, now Higgins Middle School. After graduating from high school, Corstarphen moved to Ohio where she stayed a few years until moving back to McComb, Mississippi. In these videos, Corstarphen recalls the horrors of racism in McComb during segregation and the progress McComb has made since that time.

Part one of Lillie Corsatrphen’s oral history:

Pike County – Lillie Corstarphen 01 from Winter Institute on Vimeo.

Part one of Lillie Corstarphen’s oral history can also be found here.

Source:

William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation

 

McComb

McComb, Mississippi, was one of the main battlegrounds for the struggle for civil rights in the United States. The 1950s set the stage for the Mississippi Movement, and the pivotal years for the state and McComb came in the 1960s.

In 1961 local NAACP leaders teamed with Robert Moses, a young activist with SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), to organize voter registration drives in Southwest Mississippi. That October, students at Burglund High School participated in a protest walkout that landed many young people in jail. These two events nurtured a growing group of local activists who helped lead the way for change in Mississippi.

The hold of the Klan over McComb was strong, and progress was slow and hard-wrought. By the summer of 1964, the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) committed to an ambitious new campaign in the state called “Freedom Summer,”with projects in McComb and other Mississippi communities. That summer saw the mobilization of hundreds of Movement workers arriving from outside the area and teaming local people. They led “freedom schools,”voter registration drives, and other efforts to support local blacks in the pursuit of civil rights.

Klan sympathizers stepped up their efforts at maintaining white supremacy, trying to intimidate the Movement workers into withdrawing from the area and local activists into retreating in silence and fear. The Klan carried out their terrorism with no repercussions from law enforcement. In a two-month period, there were more than a dozen bombings – so many that McComb became known as “the bombing capital of the world.”Local law enforcement supported the Klan tactics either directly or by concocting so-called crimes and arresting COFO workers and local blacks in punishment for their activism. Many white business leaders used economic punishment against the black people who worked for them. McComb’s white leadership remained silent. Fear had a hold over the area, and white moderates remained passive. In the words of McComb Enterprise-Journal editor Oliver Emmerich, “Almost everybody was hysterically afraid.”

But many local black people organized despite the fear and terror. They continued to demand assistance from the federal government, despite most of their pleas being ignored. Finally, by mid-November, continued pressure by the NAACP, COFO, and the local black community – combined with a “Statement of Principles”denouncing violence printed in the Enterprise-Journal by a group of white citizens – led to a crack down in Klan violence and ushered in a new phase of the Movement.

Sources:

I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle by Charles M. Payne

The FBI Story: A Report to the People by Don Whitehead

Freedom Song (movie) directed by Phil Alden Robinson

Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi by John Dittmer

Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project by Robert P. Moses and Charles E. Cobb

Reunion: A Memoir by Tom Hayden

So the Heffners Left McComb by Hodding Carter

Two Faces of Janus: The Saga of Deep South Change by J. Oliver Emmerich

www.mccomblegacies.org

Noble Cleaners

The entire Nobles family was active throughout the McComb Movement. Mr. Ernest Nobles’s establishment was one of the most active gathering places for SNCC workers. He opened his business to the Movement and assisted workers by transporting them, allowing them to use the telephone, and, when necessary, hiding them among the racks of clean clothes.

Nobles Cleaners escaped being bombed because Ernest and his ten brothers and one sister took turns guarding the business for more than the two years.

Summit Street District

The Summit Street District was a vibrant area of African-American businesses. It included the Lyric Theatre, whose building housed Holmes Ice Cream Parlor on the north side and Holmes Drug Store on the south side. North of the theatre was Holmes Pool Shack and Holmes Chicken Shack. Both places were used as meeting places of Movement workers.

This area included the Desoto Hotel, which housed a thriving restaurant and bar. Another club and restaurant that marked that era was the Ritz. The north end of the district ended with the Elk’s Rest, which was originally the Harlem Nightingale. This establishment had entertainers such as Cab Calloway. It had matinees on Saturday for children and adult entertainment in the evenings.

Bennett, Izeal: Oral History

Izeal Bennett, a native of Mississippi, lived in a home with thirteen siblings, his mother, and his father. His father was a sharecropper, and the children were responsible for helping him the crops. When Bennett was nine years old, he and his family moved to Summit, Mississippi. After two years, the Bennetts again moved to McComb, Mississippi in the Beartown community, where his father owned his own land. They grew peppers and cotton to sell, in addition to growing their own food. He started school at seven years old, and he quickly realized the differences in the treatment of blacks and whites. He graduated from Beartown High School and went to Alcorn University. At Alcorn, he majored in health and physical education and science. He also played football and ran track. He earned his masters at the University of Southern Mississippi in administration.

After graduation from Alcorn University, Bennett moved back to McComb, Mississippi, and worked with Robert ‘Bob’ Moses on voter registration and became among the group of the first blacks to register to vote during the movement. He began teaching in 1961 at Booker T. Washington School (now North Pike Middle School) in North Pike County. He served the movement by teaching and encouraging black students to believe that could and be anything they desired. In these videos, we learn more about Bennett’s passion for education and the advancement of the black community.

Izeal Bennett’s oral history, part one:

Pike County – Izeal Bennett 01 from Winter Institute on Vimeo.

Part one of Izeal Bennett’s oral history can also be found here.