The Civil Rights Era was a time of turbulence.  Throughout the turmoil and conflict this time presented to the American public, four organizations formed and kept the new hope of the Civil Rights Movement alive.  Playing a key role in the activities of the movement, these organizations—the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—helped run the various boycotts, protests, sit-ins, and demonstrations that history records during this vital era.

In January 1957 in Montgomery, Mississippi, Joseph Lowery and Martin Luther King, Jr. founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  King, Jr. served as president with Lowery as vice president.  The SCLC had mostly ministers for leaders, thus ushering in a moral aspect to the Civil Rights campaign.  The organization showed people how “ugly and immoral segregation was” by using marches and propaganda techniques.

Project “C” and the “children’s crusade” were the two biggest contributions of the SCLC.  Project “C” (which stands for confrontation) was a campaign against the segregation of restrooms and lunch counters in Birmingham, Alabama.  Project “C” called for people to take all available seating at the lunch counters.  No one left until served, which rarely happened.  Sit-ins became frequent events in some towns.  The “children’s crusade” was a means for the SCLC to persuade people to join their fight for civil rights by recruiting elementary and high school students.  Marches formed in all of the major cities to stress the issue of nonviolence.

On April 15, 1960 at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference asked students to attend a special meeting about civil rights.  The three attending organizations—SCLC, CORE, and NAACP—vied for the youths’ attentions at the meeting.  Each wanted the students to join them under a chapter membership.  However the students joined together and made their own organization, calling it the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

The SNCC’s greatest contributions to the Civil Rights Movement were sit-ins, voter registration, and the Freedom Riders.  When the SNCC was first created, they specialized in sit-ins at lunch counters.  Some 70,000 students would sit-in at restaurants for days and over 3,000 of them were arrested.  After CORE lost its power in the South, the SNCC had to help fill the hole it left.  They soon sought bigger and better things and decided to help increase the voter registration among blacks in Mississippi.  The SNCC launched two offices in Greenwood and Greenville, Mississippi.  Both offices were to be home bases for the students who went door to door canvassing for voter registration.  Greenwood became the first place where the SNCC succeeded with registering people for voting.  Not only did the SNCC help with voter registration, but they also helped organize the Freedom Riders.  The Freedom Riders rode buses from town to town in protest of segregation.  Many students rode the buses, often ending up in jail or paying a large fee for their “crime.”  When some blacks in the Mississippi Delta were denied food because they tried to vote, the SNCC organized the “Freedom Run” which hauled in food from various places to those who needed it in the South.  Voter registration increased because of the SNCC, and the Freedom Riders succeeded in gaining national attention.

The Congress of Racial Equality biggest contribution was uniting the four organizations for one summer.  CORE united the SNCC, SCLC, and NCAAP with itself in 1961 to form the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) whose purpose was to organize the Summer Project.  The Summer Project encouraged white college students to come to Mississippi for Freedom Summer in 1962 which was the designated time for a large march against segregation.  After Freedom Summer, the four organizations continued along their own paths once again.

Besides Freedom Summer, CORE organized several other activities.  Starting with the White City Roller Rink sit-in where blacks were not permitted to skate and the Jack Spratt Coffeehouse sit-in where blacks were completely refused service, CORE forced people to desegregate areas and serve them food.  One of the other great accomplishments made by CORE was supporting the SNCC when it organized the Freedom Riders.  When the Freedom Riders finally ended, CORE dissolved itself and the SCLC and the SNCC took over the running of the Civil Rights Movement.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was actually started before the Civil Rights Movement began.  Amzie Moore was the president for a short time before switching over to the SNCC.  The NAACP sought to help any effort made to bring civil quality for blacks.  When the fight for civil rights began, the NAACP finally saw fruit of its labor over the past decades.

During the Civil Rights Movement, the NAACP primarily participated in the Montgomery bus boycotts. One day, a white man asked Rosa Parks, a black woman, to give up her seat on the bus.  When she refused, the police jailed her.  Once Parks was jailed for sitting down for what she believed in, the NAACP called for every black in Montgomery, Alabama to walk to work and school every day.  No one was allowed to ride the bus.  The NAACP organized a special busing system, nineteen station wagons, of its own; college students, home for the summer, would drive people to their destinations.  The Montgomery bus boycotters won their case, and the public busses were desegregated.

During the Civil Rights Movement four organizations—the SCLC, SNCC, CORE, and NAACP—helped change the course of American history.  Demonstrations, boycotts, and sit-ins were their tools.  Because of these organizations, America today enjoys greater equality.

– Hannah S. Bowers