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From Sit-Ins to SNCC

The Student Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s

Iwan Morgan

Publication Year: 2012

In the wake of the fiftieth anniversary of the historic sit-in at Woolworth's lunch counter by four North Carolina A&T college students, From Sit-Ins to SNCC brings together the work of leading civil rights scholars to offer a new and groundbreaking perspective on student-oriented activism in the 1960s.

The eight substantive essays in this collection not only delineate the role of SNCC over the course of the struggle for African American civil rights but also offer an updated perspective on the development and impact of the sit-in movement in light of newly released papers from the estate of Martin Luther King Jr., the FBI, and MI-5. The contributors provide novel analyses of such topics as the dynamics of grassroots student civil rights activism, the organizational and cultural changes within SNCC, the impact of the sit-ins on the white South, the evolution of black nationalist ideology within the student movement, works of the fiction written by movement activists, and the changing international outlook of student-organized civil rights movements.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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pp. vii-viii

The student sit-ins to challenge segregated lunch counters in the early 1960s were, in civil rights activist Ella Baker’s famous phrase, “bigger than a hamburger.” The wave of protests that rapidly developed in the wake of the first demonstration in Greensboro, North Carolina, on February 1, 1960, and the consequent formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in April ...

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1. The New Movement: The Student Sit-Ins in 1960

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pp. 1-22

On the afternoon of February 1, 1960, four African American students, all age seventeen or eighteen, from the all-black North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College (NCA&T) conducted a sit-in at the Woolworth store on Elm Street in downtown Greensboro to challenge its whites-only lunch-counter policy. Before the week was out, more than three hundred students ...

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2. Another Side of the Sit-Ins: Nonviolent Direct Action, the Courts, and the Constitution

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pp. 23-40

On May 19, 2010, in the fiftieth-anniversary year of the southern student sit-in movement, Kentucky Republican senatorial candidate and prominent poster child of the Tea Party movement, Rand Paul, appeared to question the validity of the 1964 Civil Rights Act when interviewed on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show. Paul conceded that he accepted at least nine of the ten titles in the legislation, but he balked ...

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3. “Complicated Hospitality”: The Impact of the Sit-Ins on the Ideology of Southern Segregationists

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pp. 41-57

On the first Sunday of March 1960, Kelly Miller Smith Sr. rose to address the congregation of his First Baptist Church in Capitol Hill, Nashville. He was well aware that his audience included many of the eighty-five students who had recently been arrested in the Nashville sit-ins. Under the guidance of direct-action advocate James Lawson, he had helped to ...

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4. Breaching the Wall of Resistance: White Southern Reactions to the Sits-Ins

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pp. 58-80

Opinion polls could not have been clearer. White southerners were almost unanimous in their condemnation of the sit-ins. According to one 1961 survey, 84 percent opposed not only the tactics but also the aims of the protesters.1 Another poll showed that even whites who sought rapprochement with civil rights activists or were openly sympathetic with their cause disputed ...

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5. SNCCs: Not One Committee, but Several

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pp. 81-96

Of all the civil rights organizations of the 1960s, none is more revered than the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). As scholars have moved away from the Montgomery-to-Memphis master narrative that attached the rise and fall of civil rights activism to the life and work of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., SNCC has emerged as the touchstone of the authentic movement experience.1 ...

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6. SNCC’s Stories at the Barricades

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pp. 97-115

As the freedom struggle reached new heights in the summer of 1963, literary critic Granville Hicks commented, “All around the fringes of the movement, and on both sides of the barricades, magnificent dramas are taking place.”1 Interviewing civil rights workers around that time for his book Who Speaks for the Negro? (1965), Robert Penn Warren adjudged that James Forman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ...

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7. From Beloved Community to Imagined Community: SNCC’s Intellectual Transformation

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pp. 116-134

The development of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) following the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project has traditionally been presented in terms of institutional decline and intellectual regression. Many historians of the civil rights movement express regret at SNCC’s subsequent trajectory, noting its failures and growing irrelevancy as it moved from ...

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8. The Sit-Ins, SNCC, and Cold War Patriotism

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pp. 135-152

On April 20, 1960, a New York Times editorial commented that the sit-ins currently sweeping across the South represented a “cry . . . for justice and democracy . . . that cannot be stifled, that must and will be heard, and that all the citizens of this democracy can ignore only at our and the free world’s peril.”1 It was not alone in viewing the protests through the wider context of America’s Cold War ...

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9. From Greensboro to Notting Hill: The Sit-Ins in England

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pp. 153-170

On the evening of April 10, 1965, three black men entered the Bay House bar in Bristol, England, and ordered a round of beer. Exactly what happened next is contested. According to the landlord, the group “adopted an offensive attitude from the start . . . [there was] no ‘please,’ none of the usual courtesies.” Nevertheless, he insisted that the barman serve ...

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Epilogue. Still Running for Freedom: Barack Obama and the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement

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pp. 171-186

In a memorable speech delivered before the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 1957, Martin Luther King Jr. urged Congress to enact legislation to restore voting rights to disfranchised African Americans in the states of the South. Repeatedly declaring “Give us the ballot,” he anticipated that blacks would use it to obtain full rights as citizens, ensure justice, and guarantee representative government.1 ...

List of Contributors

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pp. 187-189


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pp. 191-200

E-ISBN-13: 9780813043647
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813041513
Print-ISBN-10: 0813041511

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (U.S.).
  • Civil rights demonstrations -- United States.
  • College students -- Political activity -- History.
  • Civil rights movements -- History.
  • United States -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century
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