- Interior Views
Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC’s Dream for a New America seeks to explain the role members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) played in the struggle for black freedom and to have their experience serve as a model for others interested in putting their shoulder to the wheel to change the direction of American society. “They did it and so can youth today,” the author, Wesley Hogan, explained in an interview. Hogan examines what she calls SNCC’s most productive years, 1960–1964, by breaking them down into periods of influence to analyze how specific SNCC activists were able to accomplish what they did as well as explain why the center could not hold much beyond mid-decade. Hogan has two audiences in mind for her book: “First, it is written for young people looking to make a difference in their world. Secondly, it is written for a broader group of people interested in the 1960s—those who are dissatisfied with stories we often hear about the movement given by Hollywood or by Martin Luther King Jr. Day programs.”1
This civil rights monograph does not try to tell a comprehensive institutional history of SNCC; much is missing from the study including SNCC’s role in the March on Washington, the Selma campaign, the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, and the Atlanta Project. Nor does it concentrate on one locale to explain the significance of the young activists’ work; the Mississippi Summer Project is an important part of the analysis, but an in-depth look at all of SNCC’s endeavors in the Magnolia State is not the point. Instead, the focus is on what happened inside SNCC. And even though the narrative travels over some familiar terrain, it brings together many strands of scholarship to recount and analyze an important story.2 By using an interior view, the author hopes to explain how the organization could “alter so many rhythms in the United States and yet suddenly collapse when its most crucial work remained before it” (p. 6).
The book begins in a familiar place with the student sit-ins of 1960, but it uses these direct action protests as a way to underscore their long-term effect [End Page 133] on SNCC’s later achievements. The author sympathizes with the early years of the organization when its work was more clearly defined and its results more directly visible. Hogan argues that the organization’s eventual success depended upon the early counsel, guidance, and training wise adults gave to these young activists. Opening the book with the work of James Lawson and his workshops in Nashville clarifies how the philosophy of nonviolence took root and became a way of life for James Bevel, Charles Jones, Bernard Lafayette, John Lewis, Diane Nash, and Cordell Reagon. In Tennessee, “Lawson’s presence as the guiding force,” Hogan explains, “and his willingness to meet with the students once a week, proved pivotal. He taught patience and persistence, and, at the center of the workshop, an ethic of compassion began to develop” (p. 22). These workshops “allowed individuals to move from private talk to public action—again and again” (p. 23). These weekly sessions created an important foundation that explains the success of SNCC’s direct action efforts.
The sit-ins also brought Bob Moses and Charles Sherrod into the civil rights movement. Hogan uses their work in Mississippi and southwest Georgia respectively from 1961 to 1963 to explain how SNCC activists used voter registration as a mechanism for community organizing. Prior to going to Mississippi, Moses had participated in a sit-in while visiting an uncle who taught at Hampton Institute. The experience brought him “a feeling of great release” (p. 39). Afterward he headed to Atlanta where he received important counsel from Ella Baker, another adult whose knowledge, wisdom, and commitment proved vital to SNCC’s success. Readers will discover how Moses’s community organizing techniques developed as he...