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Southern Christian Leadership Conference

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The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is an African-American civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 organization. SCLC was closely associated with its first president, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the...

 The SCLC had a large role in the American Civil Rights Movement
African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968)
The African-American Civil Rights Movement refers to the movements in the United States aimed at outlawing racial discrimination against African Americans and restoring voting rights to them. This article covers the phase of the movement between 1955 and 1968, particularly in the South...

.

Founding


In January 1957, in the afterglow of the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Montgomery Bus Boycott
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a political and social protest campaign that started in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, USA, intended to oppose the city's policy of racial segregation on its public transit system. Many important figures in the civil rights movement were involved in the boycott,...

 victory and consultations with Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, pacifism and non-violence, and gay rights.In the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation , Rustin practiced nonviolence...

, Ella Baker
Ella Baker
Ella Josephine Baker was an African American civil rights and human rights activist beginning in the 1930s....

, and others, Dr. King invited some 60 black ministers and leaders to Ebenezer Church in Atlanta. Prior to this, however, Bayard Rustin (in New York City), having conceived the idea of initiating such effort, first sought Rev. C. K. Steele to make the call and take the lead role. C. K. Steele declined, but told him he would be glad to work right beside him if he sought Dr. King in Montgomery, for the role. Their goal was to form an organization to coordinate and support nonviolent
Nonviolence
Nonviolence has two meanings. It can refer, first, to a general philosophy of abstention from violence because of moral or religious principle It can refer to the behaviour of people using nonviolent action Nonviolence has two (closely related) meanings. (1) It can refer, first, to a general...

 direct action as a method of desegregating bus systems across the South
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

. In addition to Rustin and Baker, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth
Fred Shuttlesworth
Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, born Freddie Lee Robinson, was a U.S. civil rights activist who led the fight against segregation and other forms of racism as a minister in Birmingham, Alabama...

 of Birmingham, Rev Joseph Lowery
Joseph Lowery
Joseph Echols Lowery is a minister in the United Methodist Church and leader in the American civil rights movement. He later became the third president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his immediate successor, Rev. Dr...

 of Mobile, Rev Ralph Abernathy
Ralph Abernathy
Ralph David Abernathy, Sr. was a leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, a minister, and a close associate of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Following King's assassination, Dr. Abernathy took up the leadership of the SCLC Poor People's Campaign and...

 of Montgomery, Rev C.K. Steele
Charles Kenzie Steele
Rev. Charles Kenzie Steele was a preacher and a civil rights activist. He was one of the main organizers of the Tallahassee bus boycott, and a prominent member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.-Biography:Steele was the son of a coal miner, and at a young age he knew that he wanted...

 of Tallahassee, all played key roles in this meeting.

On February 14, a follow-up meeting was held in New Orleans. Out of these two meetings came a new organization with Dr. King as its president. Initially called the "Negro Leaders Conference on Nonviolent Integration," then "Southern Negro Leaders Conference," the group eventually chose "Southern Christian Leadership Conference" (SCLC) as its name, and expanded its focus beyond busses to ending all forms of segregation. A small office was established on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta with Ella Baker
Ella Baker
Ella Josephine Baker was an African American civil rights and human rights activist beginning in the 1930s....

 as SCLC's first — and for a long time only — staff member.

SCLC was governed by an elected Board, and established as an organization of affiliates, most of which were either individual churches or community organizations such as the Montgomery Improvement Association
Montgomery Improvement Association
The Montgomery Improvement Association was formed on December 5, 1955 by black ministers and community leaders in Montgomery, Alabama. Under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr...

 (MIA) and Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR). This organizational form differed from the NAACP
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, usually abbreviated as NAACP, is an African-American civil rights organization in the United States, formed in 1909. Its mission is "to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to...

 and CORE
Congress of Racial Equality
The Congress of Racial Equality or CORE was a U.S. civil rights organization that originally played a pivotal role for African-Americans in the Civil Rights Movement...

 who recruited individuals and formed them into local chapters.

During its early years, SCLC struggled to gain footholds in black churches and communities across the South. Social activism in favor of racial equality faced fierce repression from police, White Citizens' Council
White Citizens' Council
The White Citizens' Council was an American white supremacist organization formed on July 11, 1954. After 1956, it was known as the Citizens' Councils of America...

 and the Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan, often abbreviated KKK and informally known as the Klan, is the name of three distinct past and present far-right organizations in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically...

. Only a few churches had the courage to defy the white-dominated status-quo by affiliating with SCLC, and those that did risked economic retaliation against pastors and other church leaders, arson, and bombings.

SCLC's advocacy of boycotts and other forms of nonviolent protest was controversial among both whites and blacks. Many black community leaders believed that segregation should be challenged in the courts and that direct action excited white resistance, hostility, and violence. Traditionally, leadership in black communities came from the educated elite—ministers, professionals, teachers, etc.—who spoke for and on behalf of the laborers, maids, farm-hands, and working-poor who made up the bulk of the black population. Many of these traditional leaders were uneasy at involving ordinary blacks in mass activity such as boycotts and marches.

SCLC's belief that churches should be involved in political activism against social ills was also deeply controversial. Many ministers and religious leaders—both black and white—thought that the role of the church was to focus on the spiritual needs of the congregation and perform charitable works to aid the needy. To some of them, the social-political activity of Dr. King and SCLC amounted to dangerous radicalism which they strongly opposed.

SCLC and Dr. King were also sometimes criticized for lack of militancy by younger activists in groups such as Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ' was one of the principal organizations of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. It emerged from a series of student meetings led by Ella Baker held at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina in April 1960...

 (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality
Congress of Racial Equality
The Congress of Racial Equality or CORE was a U.S. civil rights organization that originally played a pivotal role for African-Americans in the Civil Rights Movement...

 (CORE) who were participating in sit-in
Sit-in
A sit-in or sit-down is a form of protest that involves occupying seats or sitting down on the floor of an establishment.-Process:In a sit-in, protesters remain until they are evicted, usually by force, or arrested, or until their requests have been met...

s and Freedom Rides
Freedom ride
Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States to test the United States Supreme Court decisions Boynton v. Virginia and Morgan v. Virginia...

.

Citizenship Schools


Originally started in 1954 by Esau Jenkins
Esau Jenkins
Esau Jenkins was the founder/overseer of Haut Gap Middle School in Charleston County School District. This school once was a high school because back then Jim Crow laws was going on and that school were for African Americans in Johns Island, South Carolina...

 and Septima Clark
Septima Poinsette Clark
Septima Poinsette Clark was an American educator and civil rights activist. Clark developed the literacy and citizenship workshops that played an important role in the drive for voting rights and civil rights for African Americans in the American Civil Rights Movement." She became known as the...

 on the Sea Islands
Sea Islands
The Sea Islands are a chain of tidal and barrier islands on the Atlantic Ocean coast of the United States. They number over 100, and are located between the mouths of the Santee and St. Johns Rivers along the coast of the U.S...

 off the coast of South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

 and Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

, the Citizenship Schools focused on teaching adults to read so they could pass the voter-registration literacy test
Literacy test
A literacy test, in the context of United States political history, refers to the government practice of testing the literacy of potential citizens at the federal level, and potential voters at the state level. The federal government first employed literacy tests as part of the immigration process...

s, fill out driver's license exams, use mail-order forms, and open checking accounts. Under the auspices of the Highlander Folk School (now Highlander Research and Education Center
Highlander Research and Education Center
The Highlander Research and Education Center, formerly known as the Highlander Folk School, is a social justice leadership training school and cultural center located in New Market, Tennessee. Founded in 1932 by activist Myles Horton, educator Don West, and Methodist minister James A. Dombrowski,...

) the program was expanded across the South.

When the state of Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

 revoked Highlander's charter and confiscated its land and property in 1961, SCLC rescued the citizenship school program and added Septima Clark, Bernice Robinson, and Andrew Young
Andrew Young
Andrew Jackson Young is an American politician, diplomat, activist and pastor from Georgia. He has served as Mayor of Atlanta, a Congressman from the 5th district, and United States Ambassador to the United Nations...

 to its staff. Under the innocuous cover of adult-literacy classes, the schools secretly taught democracy and civil rights, community leadership and organizing, practical politicals, and the strategies and tactics of resistance and struggle, and in so doing built the human foundations of the mass community struggles to come.

Eventually, close to 69,000 teachers, most of them unpaid volunteers and many with little formal education, taught Citizenship Schools throughout the South. Many of the Civil Rights Movement's adult leaders such as Fannie Lou Hamer
Fannie Lou Hamer
Fannie Lou Hamer was an American voting rights activist and civil rights leader....

 and Victoria Gray
Victoria Gray Adams
Victoria Jackson Gray Adams was an American civil rights activist from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She was one of the founding members of the influential Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.-Early life and education:...

, and hundreds of other local leaders in black communities across the South attended and taught citizenship schools.

Albany Movement



In 1961 and 1962, SCLC joined SNCC in the Albany Movement
Albany Movement
The Albany Movement was a desegregation coalition formed in Albany, Georgia, on November 17, 1961. Local activists, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee , and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People were all involved in the movement. The movement was led by William...

, a broad protest against segregation in Albany
Albany, Georgia
Albany is a city in and the county seat of Dougherty County, Georgia, United States, in the southwestern part of the state. It is the principal city of the Albany, Georgia metropolitan area and the southwest part of the state. The population was 77,434 at the 2010 U.S. Census, making it the...

, Georgia. It is generally considered the organization's first major nonviolent campaign. At the time, it was considered by many to be unsuccessful: despite large demonstrations and many arrests, few changes were won, and the protests drew little national attention. Yet, despite the lack of immediate gains, much of the success of the subsequent Birmingham Campaign can be attributed to lessons learned in Albany.

Birmingham campaign



By contrast, the 1963 SCLC campaign
Birmingham campaign
The Birmingham campaign was a strategic movement organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to bring attention to the unequal treatment that black Americans endured in Birmingham, Alabama...

 in Birmingham
Birmingham, Alabama
Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama. The city is the county seat of Jefferson County. According to the 2010 United States Census, Birmingham had a population of 212,237. The Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Area, in estimate by the U.S...

, Alabama, was an unqualified success. The campaign focused on a single goal — the desegregation of Birmingham's downtown merchants — rather than total desegregation, as in Albany. The brutal response of local police, led by Public Safety Commissioner "Bull" Connor
Bull Connor
Theophilus Eugene "Bull" Connor was the Commissioner of Public Safety for the city of Birmingham, Alabama, during the American Civil Rights Movement...

, stood in stark contrast to the nonviolent civil disobedience of the activists.

After his arrest in April, King wrote the "Letter from Birmingham Jail
Letter from Birmingham Jail
The Letter from Birmingham Jail or Letter from Birmingham City Jail, also known as The Negro Is Your Brother, is an open letter written on April 16, 1963, by Martin Luther King, Jr., an American civil rights leader...

" in response to a group of clergy who had criticized the Birmingham campaign, writing that it was "directed and led in part by outsiders" and that the demonstrations were "unwise and untimely." In his letter, King explained that, as president of SCLC, he had been asked to come to Birmingham by the local members:
I think I should indicate why I am here In Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in." I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. ... Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here I am here because I have organizational ties here.


King also addressed the question of "timeliness":
One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. ... Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied." We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights.


The most dramatic moments of the Birmingham campaign came on May 2, when more than 1,000 Black children left school to join the demonstrations; hundreds were arrested. The following day, 2,500 more students joined and were met by Bull Connor with police dogs and high-pressure fire hoses. That evening, television news programs reported to the nation and the world scenes of fire hoses knocking down schoolchildren and dogs attacking individual demonstrators. Public outrage led the Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 administration to intervene more forcefully and a settlement was announced on May 10, under which the downtown businesses would desegregate and eliminate discriminatory hiring practices, and the city would release the jailed protesters.

March on Washington


After the Birmingham Campaign, SCLC called for massive protests in Washington DC
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 to push for new civil rights legislation that would outlaw segregation nation-wide. A. Philip Randolph
A. Philip Randolph
Asa Philip Randolph was a leader in the African American civil-rights movement and the American labor movement. He organized and led the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first predominantly Negro labor union. In the early civil-rights movement, Randolph led the March on Washington...

 and
Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, pacifism and non-violence, and gay rights.In the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation , Rustin practiced nonviolence...

 issued similar calls for a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. On July 2, 1963, King, Randolph, and Rustin met with James L. Farmer, Jr.
James L. Farmer, Jr.
James Leonard Farmer, Jr. was a civil rights activist and leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. He was the initiator and organizer of the 1961 Freedom Ride, which eventually led to the desegregation of inter-state transportation in the United States.In 1942, Farmer co-founded the Committee...

 of CORE
Congress of Racial Equality
The Congress of Racial Equality or CORE was a U.S. civil rights organization that originally played a pivotal role for African-Americans in the Civil Rights Movement...

, John Lewis
John Lewis (politician)
John Robert Lewis is the U.S. Representative for , serving since 1987. He was a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee , playing a key role in the struggle to end segregation...

 of SNCC
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ' was one of the principal organizations of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. It emerged from a series of student meetings led by Ella Baker held at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina in April 1960...

, Roy Wilkins
Roy Wilkins
Roy Wilkins was a prominent civil rights activist in the United States from the 1930s to the 1970s. Wilkins' most notable role was in his leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ....

 of the NAACP
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, usually abbreviated as NAACP, is an African-American civil rights organization in the United States, formed in 1909. Its mission is "to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to...

, and Whitney Young
Whitney Young
Whitney Moore Young Jr. was an American civil rights leader.He spent most of his career working to end employment discrimination in the United States and turning the National Urban League from a relatively passive civil rights organization into one that aggressively fought for equitable access to...

 of the Urban League to plan a united march on August 28.

The media and political establishment viewed the march with great fear and trepidation over the possibility that protesters would run riot in the streets of the capital. But despite their fears, the March on Washington was a huge success, with no violence, and an estimated number of participants ranging from 200,000 to 300,000. It was also a logistical triumph — more than 2,000 buses, 21 special trains, 10 chartered aircraft, and uncounted autos converged on the city in the morning and departed without difficulty by nightfall.

The crowning moment of the march was Dr. King's famous "I Have a Dream
I Have a Dream
"I Have a Dream" is a 17-minute public speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered on August 28, 1963, in which he called for racial equality and an end to discrimination...

" speech in which he articulated the hopes and aspirations of the Civil Rights Movement
African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968)
The African-American Civil Rights Movement refers to the movements in the United States aimed at outlawing racial discrimination against African Americans and restoring voting rights to them. This article covers the phase of the movement between 1955 and 1968, particularly in the South...

 and rooted it in two cherished gospels — the Old Testament and the unfulfilled promise of the American creed.

St. Augustine protests


When civil rights activists protesting segregation in St. Augustine, Florida were met with arrests and Ku Klux Klan violence, the local SCLC affiliate appealed to Dr. King for assistance in the spring of 1964. SCLC sent staff to help organize and lead demonstrations and mobilized support for St. Augustine in the North. Hundreds were arrested on sit-ins and marches opposing segregation, so many that the jails were filled and the overflow prisoners had to be held in outdoor stockades. Among the northern supporters who endured arrest and incarceration were Mrs. Malcolm Peabody, the mother of the governor of Massachusetts and Mrs. John Burgess, wife of the Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts.

Nightly marches to the Old Slave Market were attacked by white mobs, and when blacks attempted to integrate "white-only" beaches they were assaulted by police who beat them with clubs. On June 11, Dr. King and other SCLC leaders were arrested for trying to lunch at the Monson Motel restaurant, and when an integrated group of young protesters tried to use the motel swimming pool the owner poured acid into the water. TV and newspaper stories of the struggle for justice in St. Augustine helped build public support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation...

 that was then being debated in Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

.

Selma Voting Rights Campaign and March to Montgomery


When voter registration and civil rights activity in Selma, Alabama
Selma, Alabama
Selma is a city in and the county seat of Dallas County, Alabama, United States, located on the banks of the Alabama River. The population was 20,512 at the 2000 census....

 was blocked by an illegal injunction, the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL) asked SCLC for assistance. Dr. King, SCLC, and DCVL chose Selma as the site for a major campaign around voting rights that would demand national voting rights legislation in the same way that the Birmingham
Birmingham campaign
The Birmingham campaign was a strategic movement organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to bring attention to the unequal treatment that black Americans endured in Birmingham, Alabama...

 and St. Augustine campaigns won passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation...

.

In cooperation with SNCC who had been organizing in Selma since early 1963, the Voting Rights Campaign commenced with a rally in Brown Chapel
Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church (Selma, Alabama)
Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church is a church in Selma, Alabama, United States. This church was a starting point for the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 and, as the meeting place and offices of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the Selma Movement, played a major role in the events...

 on January 2, 1965 in defiance of the injunction. SCLC and SNCC organizers recruited and trained blacks to attempt to register to vote at the courthouse, where many of them were abused and arrested by Dallas County
Dallas County, Alabama
Dallas County is a county of the U.S. state of Alabama. Its name is in honor of United States Secretary of the Treasury Alexander J. Dallas. The county seat is Selma.- History :...

 Sheriff Jim Clark — a staunch segregationist. Black voter applicants were subjected to economic retaliation by the White Citizens' Council
White Citizens' Council
The White Citizens' Council was an American white supremacist organization formed on July 11, 1954. After 1956, it was known as the Citizens' Councils of America...

, and threatened with physical violence by the Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan, often abbreviated KKK and informally known as the Klan, is the name of three distinct past and present far-right organizations in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically...

. Officials used the discriminatory literacy test
Literacy test
A literacy test, in the context of United States political history, refers to the government practice of testing the literacy of potential citizens at the federal level, and potential voters at the state level. The federal government first employed literacy tests as part of the immigration process...

 to keep blacks off the voter rolls.

Nonviolent mass marches demanded the right to vote and the jails filled up with arrested protesters, many of them students. On February 1, Dr. King and Rev. Abernathy were arrested. Voter registration efforts and protest marches spread to the surrounding Black Belt
Black Belt (region of Alabama)
The Black Belt is a region of the U.S. state of Alabama, and part of the larger Black Belt Region of the Southern United States, which stretches from Texas to Maryland. The term originally referred to the region underlain by a thin layer of rich, black topsoil developed atop the chalk of the Selma...

  counties — Perry
Perry County, Alabama
Perry County is a county of the U.S. state of Alabama. It was established in 1819, and is named in honor of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry of Rhode Island and the United States Navy. As of 2010 the population was 10,591...

, Wilcox
Wilcox County, Alabama
Wilcox County is a county of the U.S. state of Alabama. Its name is in honor of Lieutenant J. M. Wilcox, who fought in the wars against the Creek tribe. As of 2010, the population was 11,670...

, Marengo
Marengo County, Alabama
Marengo County is a county of the U.S. state of Alabama. It is named in honor of a battlefield near Turin, Italy, where the French defeated the Austrians on June 14, 1800. As of 2010 the population was 21,027...

, Greene
Greene County, Alabama
Greene County is the least populous county in the U.S. state of Alabama. Its name is in honor of Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene of Rhode Island. As of 2010 the population was 9,045...

, and Hale
Hale County, Alabama
Hale County is a county of the U.S. state of Alabama. It is named in honor of Confederate officer Stephen Fowler Hale. As of 2010 the population was 15,760. Its county seat is Greensboro and it is part of the Tuscaloosa Metropolitan Statistical Area....

.

On February 18, an Alabama State Trooper shot and killed Jimmie Lee Jackson
Jimmie Lee Jackson
Jimmie Lee Jackson was a civil rights protestor who was shot and killed by Alabama State Trooper James Bonard Fowler in 1965. Jackson was unarmed. His death inspired the Selma to Montgomery marches, an important event in the American Civil Rights movement. He was 26 years old.-Personal...

 during a voting rights protest in Marion
Marion, Alabama
Marion is the county seat of Perry County, Alabama. As of the 2000 census, the population of the city is 3,511. First called Muckle Ridge, the city was renamed after a hero of the American Revolution, Francis Marion.-Geography:...

, county seat of Perry County. In response, on March 7 close to 600 protesters attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery to present their grievances to Governor Wallace
George Wallace
George Corley Wallace, Jr. was the 45th Governor of Alabama, serving four terms: 1963–1967, 1971–1979 and 1983–1987. "The most influential loser" in 20th-century U.S. politics, according to biographers Dan T. Carter and Stephan Lesher, he ran for U.S...

. Led by Reverend Hosea Williams
Hosea Williams
Hosea Lorenzo Williams was a United States civil rights leader, ordained minister, businessman, philanthropist, scientist and politician...

 of SCLC and John Lewis
John Lewis (politician)
John Robert Lewis is the U.S. Representative for , serving since 1987. He was a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee , playing a key role in the struggle to end segregation...

 of SNCC, the marchers were attacked by State Troopers, deputy sheriffs, and mounted possemen who used tear-gas, clubs, and bull whips to drive them back to Brown Chapel. News coverage of this brutal assault on nonviolent demonstrators protesting for the right to vote — which became known as "Bloody Sunday" — horrified the nation.

Dr. King called on clergy and people of conscience to support the black citizens of Selma. Thousands of religious leaders and ordinary Americans came to demand voting rights for all. One of them was James Reeb
James Reeb
James Reeb was a white American Unitarian Universalist minister from Boston, Massachusetts and pastor and civil rights activist in Washington, DC. While marching for civil rights in Selma, Alabama in 1965, he was beaten severely by segregationists and died of head injuries two days later in the...

, a white Unitarian Universalist minister, who was savagely beaten to death on the street by Klansmen who severely injured two other ministers in the same attack.

After many more protests, arrests, and much legal maneuvering, a Federal judge ordered Alabama to allow the march to Montgomery. It began on March 21 and arrived in Montgomery on the 24th. On the 25th, an estimated 25,000 protesters marched to the steps of the Alabama capitol in support of voting rights where Dr. King spoke on the voting rights struggle. Within five months, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson responded to the enormous public pressure generated by the Voting Rights Campaign by enacting into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Grenada Freedom Movement


When the Meredith Mississippi March Against Fear
March Against Fear
On June 6, 1966, James Meredith started a solitary March Against Fear for 220 miles from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi, to protest against racism. Soon after starting his march he was shot by a sniper with birdshot, injuring him...

 passed through Grenada
Grenada, Mississippi
Grenada is a city in Grenada County, Mississippi, United States. The population was 14,879 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Grenada County.-History:...

, Mississippi
Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

 on June 15, 1966, it sparked months of civil rights activity on the part of Grenada blacks. They formed the Grenada County Freedom Movement (GCFM) as an SCLC affiliate, and within days 1,300 blacks registered to vote.

Though the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation...

 had outlawed segregation of public facilities, the law had not been applied in Grenada which still maintained rigid segregation. After black students were arrested for trying to sit downstairs in the "white" section of the movie theater, SCLC and the GCFM demanded that all forms of segregation be eliminated, and called for a boycott of white merchants. Over the summer, the number of protests increased and many demonstrators and SCLC organizers were arrested as police enforced the old Jim Crow social order. In July and August, large mobs of white segregationists mobilized by the KKK
Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan, often abbreviated KKK and informally known as the Klan, is the name of three distinct past and present far-right organizations in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically...

 violently attacked nonviolent marchers and news reporters with rocks, bottles, baseball bats and steel pipes.

When the new school year began in September, SCLC and the GCFM encouraged more than 450 black students to register at the formerly white schools under a court desegregation order. This was by far the largest school integration attempt in Mississippi since the Brown v. Board of Education
Brown v. Board of Education
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 , was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 which...

ruling in 1954. The all-white school board resisted fiercely, whites threatened black parents with economic retaliation if they did not withdraw their children, and by the first day of school the number of black children registered in the white schools had dropped to approximately 250. On the first day of class, September 12, a furious white mob organized by the Klan attacked the black children and their parents with clubs, chains, whips, and pipes as they walked to school, injuring many and hospitalizing several with broken bones. Police and Mississippi State Troopers made no effort to halt or deter the mob violence.

Over the following days, white mobs continued to attack the black children until public pressure and a Federal court order finally forced Mississippi lawmen to intervene. By the end of the first week, many black parents had withdrawn their children from the white schools out of fear for their safety, but approximately 150 black students continued to attend, still the largest school integration in state history at that point in time.

Inside the schools, blacks were harassed by white teachers, threatened and attacked by white students, and many blacks were expelled on flimsy pretexts by school officials. By mid-October, the number of blacks attending the white schools had dropped to roughly 70. When school officials refused to meet with a delegation of black parents, black students began boycotting both the white and black schools in protest. Many children, parents, GCFM activists, and SCLC organizers were arrested for protesting the school situation. By the end of October, almost all of the 2600 black students in Grenada County were boycotting school. The boycott was not ended until early November when SCLC attorneys won a Federal court order that the school system treat everyone equal regardless of race and meet with black parents.

1968–1997


After the assassintaion of Dr. Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination
Martin Luther King, Jr., a prominent American leader of the African-American civil rights movement and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, at the age of 39...

 in 1968, leadership was transferred to Ralph Abernathy
Ralph Abernathy
Ralph David Abernathy, Sr. was a leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, a minister, and a close associate of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Following King's assassination, Dr. Abernathy took up the leadership of the SCLC Poor People's Campaign and...

, who presided until 1977. Abernathy was replaced by Joseph Lowery
Joseph Lowery
Joseph Echols Lowery is a minister in the United Methodist Church and leader in the American civil rights movement. He later became the third president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his immediate successor, Rev. Dr...

 who was SCLC president until 1997.

1997 to present


In 1997, Martin Luther King III
Martin Luther King III
Martin Luther King III is an American human rights advocate and community activist. He is the eldest son and oldest living child of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King. His siblings are Dexter Scott King, Rev. Bernice Albertine King, and the late Yolanda Denise...

 was unanimously elected to head the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, replacing Joseph Lowery
Joseph Lowery
Joseph Echols Lowery is a minister in the United Methodist Church and leader in the American civil rights movement. He later became the third president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his immediate successor, Rev. Dr...

. Under King's leadership, the SCLC held hearings on police brutality, organized a rally for the 37th anniversary of the I Have a Dream
I Have a Dream
"I Have a Dream" is a 17-minute public speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered on August 28, 1963, in which he called for racial equality and an end to discrimination...

 speech and launched a successful campaign to change the Georgia state flag, which previously featured a large Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 cross
Flags of the Confederate States of America
There were only three flag designs adopted, with later, minor variants made to those designs, that served as the official national flags of the Confederate States of America and used during its existence from 1861 to 1865...

.

Within only a few months of taking the position, however, King was being criticized by the Conference board for alleged inactivity. He was accused of failing to answer correspondence from the board and take up issues important to the organization. The board also felt he failed to demonstrate against national issues the SCLC previously would have protested, like the disenfranchisement of black voters in the Florida election recount
Florida election recount
The Florida election recount of 2000 was a period of vote re-counting that occurred following the unclear results of the 2000 United States presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, specifically the Florida results. The election was ultimately settled in favor of George W. Bush when...

 or time limits on welfare recipients implemented by then-President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

. King was further criticized for failing to join the battle against AIDS
AIDS
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus...

, allegedly because he feels uncomfortable talking about condom
Condom
A condom is a barrier device most commonly used during sexual intercourse to reduce the probability of pregnancy and spreading sexually transmitted diseases . It is put on a man's erect penis and physically blocks ejaculated semen from entering the body of a sexual partner...

s. He also hired Lamell J. McMorris, an executive director who, according to The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

, "rubbed board members the wrong way."

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference suspended King from the presidency in June 2001, concerned that he was letting the organization drift into inaction. In a June 25 letter to King, the group's national chairman at the time, Claud Young, wrote, "You have consistently been insubordinate and displayed inappropriate, obstinate behavior in the (negligent) carrying out of your duties as president of SCLC." King was reinstated only one week later after promising to take a more active role. Young said of the suspension, "I felt we had to use a two-by-four
Lumber
Lumber or timber is wood in any of its stages from felling through readiness for use as structural material for construction, or wood pulp for paper production....

 to get his attention. Well, it got his attention all right."

After he was reinstated, King prepared a four-year plan outlining a stronger direction for the organization, agreeing to dismiss McMorris and announcing plans to present a strong challenge to the George W. Bush administration in an August convention in Montgomery, Alabama
Montgomery, Alabama
Montgomery is the capital of the U.S. state of Alabama, and is the county seat of Montgomery County. It is located on the Alabama River southeast of the center of the state, in the Gulf Coastal Plain. As of the 2010 census, Montgomery had a population of 205,764 making it the second-largest city...

. He also planned to concentrate on racial profiling, prisoners' rights and closing the digital divide between whites and blacks. However, King also suggested in a statement that the group needed a different approach than it had used in the past, stating, "We must not allow our lust for 'temporal gratification' to blind us from making difficult decisions to effect future generations."

Martin Luther King III resigned in 2004, upon which Fred Shuttlesworth
Fred Shuttlesworth
Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, born Freddie Lee Robinson, was a U.S. civil rights activist who led the fight against segregation and other forms of racism as a minister in Birmingham, Alabama...

 was elected to replace him. Shuttlesworth resigned the same year that he was appointed, complaining that "deceit, mistrust, and a lack of spiritual discipline and truth have eaten at the core of this once-hallowed organization". He was replaced by Charles Steele, Jr., who served until October 2009.

On October 30, 2009, Elder Bernice King
Bernice King
Bernice Albertine King is the second daughter and youngest child of civil rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Coretta Scott King. Her older siblings are Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott King, and the late Yolanda Denise King. Bernice is the only King child to become a minister...

, Dr. King's youngest child, was elected SCLC's new president, with Rev. Dr. James Bush III taking office in February 2010 as Acting President/CEO until Elder King took office. However, on January 21, 2011, fifteen months after her election, Elder King declined the position of president. In a written statement, she said that her decision came “after numerous attempts to connect with the official board leaders on how to move forward under my leadership, unfortunately, our visions did not align.”

Leadership


The best-known member of the SCLC was Martin Luther King, who was president and chaired the organization until he was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Other prominent members of the organization have included Joseph Lowery
Joseph Lowery
Joseph Echols Lowery is a minister in the United Methodist Church and leader in the American civil rights movement. He later became the third president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his immediate successor, Rev. Dr...

, Ralph Abernathy
Ralph Abernathy
Ralph David Abernathy, Sr. was a leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, a minister, and a close associate of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Following King's assassination, Dr. Abernathy took up the leadership of the SCLC Poor People's Campaign and...

, Ella Baker
Ella Baker
Ella Josephine Baker was an African American civil rights and human rights activist beginning in the 1930s....

, James Bevel
James Bevel
James L. Bevel was an American minister and leader of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement who, as the Director of Direct Action and Director of Nonviolent Education of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference initiated, strategized, directed, and developed SCLC's three major successes of the era:...

, Diane Nash
Diane Nash
Diane Judith Nash was a leader and strategist of the student wing of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. A historian described her as: "…bright, focused, utterly fearless, with an unerring instinct for the correct tactical move at each increment of the crisis; as a leader, her instincts had been...

, Jesse Jackson
Jesse Jackson
Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr. is an African-American civil rights activist and Baptist minister. He was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988 and served as shadow senator for the District of Columbia from 1991 to 1997. He was the founder of both entities that merged to...

, James Orange
James Orange
James Edward Orange, MLK March website biography. Accessed 2008-02-17. was a pastor and a leading civil rights activist in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in America.-Personal life:...

, Charles Kenzie Steele
Charles Kenzie Steele
Rev. Charles Kenzie Steele was a preacher and a civil rights activist. He was one of the main organizers of the Tallahassee bus boycott, and a prominent member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.-Biography:Steele was the son of a coal miner, and at a young age he knew that he wanted...

, C.T. Vivian, Fred Shuttlesworth
Fred Shuttlesworth
Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, born Freddie Lee Robinson, was a U.S. civil rights activist who led the fight against segregation and other forms of racism as a minister in Birmingham, Alabama...

, Walter E. Fauntroy
Walter E. Fauntroy
Walter Edward Fauntroy is the former pastor of the New Bethel Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and a civil rights activist. He is also a former member of the United States Congress and was a candidate for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination, as well as a human rights activist...

, Claud Young, Septima Clark
Septima Poinsette Clark
Septima Poinsette Clark was an American educator and civil rights activist. Clark developed the literacy and citizenship workshops that played an important role in the drive for voting rights and civil rights for African Americans in the American Civil Rights Movement." She became known as the...

, Martin Luther King III, Dorothy Cotton
Dorothy Cotton
Dorothy Cotton was a leader of the 1960s African-American Civil Rights Movement and a member of the inner-circle of one of its main organizations, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference...

, Curtis W. Harris
Curtis W. Harris
Curtis West Harris, Sr. is a minister, civil rights activist, and politician in Virginia, USA.-Civil rights work:Harris' civil rights work began in 1950 with his stint as President of the Hopewell chapter of the NAACP...

, Hosea Williams
Hosea Williams
Hosea Lorenzo Williams was a United States civil rights leader, ordained minister, businessman, philanthropist, scientist and politician...

, Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou is an American author and poet who has been called "America's most visible black female autobiographer" by scholar Joanne M. Braxton. She is best known for her series of six autobiographical volumes, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first and most highly...

, and Andrew Young
Andrew Young
Andrew Jackson Young is an American politician, diplomat, activist and pastor from Georgia. He has served as Mayor of Atlanta, a Congressman from the 5th district, and United States Ambassador to the United Nations...

.

Presidents
1957–1968 Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the...

1968–1977 Ralph Abernathy
Ralph Abernathy
Ralph David Abernathy, Sr. was a leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, a minister, and a close associate of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Following King's assassination, Dr. Abernathy took up the leadership of the SCLC Poor People's Campaign and...

1977–1997 Joseph Lowery
Joseph Lowery
Joseph Echols Lowery is a minister in the United Methodist Church and leader in the American civil rights movement. He later became the third president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his immediate successor, Rev. Dr...

1997–2004 Martin Luther King III
Martin Luther King III
Martin Luther King III is an American human rights advocate and community activist. He is the eldest son and oldest living child of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King. His siblings are Dexter Scott King, Rev. Bernice Albertine King, and the late Yolanda Denise...

2004 Fred Shuttlesworth
Fred Shuttlesworth
Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, born Freddie Lee Robinson, was a U.S. civil rights activist who led the fight against segregation and other forms of racism as a minister in Birmingham, Alabama...

2004–2009 Charles Kenzie Steele, Jr.
Charles Kenzie Steele, Jr.
Charles Steele, Jr. is an American businessman, politician and civil rights leader. He was the first African American elected to the City Council of Tuscaloosa and one of the first African Americans elected to the Alabama State Senate...

2009–2011 Howard W. Creecy, Jr.

|| 2011–present || Isaac Newton Farris Jr
|}

Relationships with other organizations


Because of its dedication to non-violent
Nonviolence
Nonviolence has two meanings. It can refer, first, to a general philosophy of abstention from violence because of moral or religious principle It can refer to the behaviour of people using nonviolent action Nonviolence has two (closely related) meanings. (1) It can refer, first, to a general...

 direct-action protests, civil disobedience
Civil disobedience
Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power. Civil disobedience is commonly, though not always, defined as being nonviolent resistance. It is one form of civil resistance...

, and mobilizing mass participation in boycotts and marches, SCLC was considered more "radical" than the older NAACP which favored lawsuits, legislative lobbying, and education campaigns conducted by professionals and usually opposed civil-disobedience. At the same time it was generally considered to be less radical than CORE
Congress of Racial Equality
The Congress of Racial Equality or CORE was a U.S. civil rights organization that originally played a pivotal role for African-Americans in the Civil Rights Movement...

 or the youth-led SNCC
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ' was one of the principal organizations of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. It emerged from a series of student meetings led by Ella Baker held at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina in April 1960...

.

To a certain extent during the period 1960–1964, SCLC had a mentoring relationship with SNCC before SNCC began moving away from nonviolence and integration in the late 1960s. Over time, SCLC and SNCC took different strategic paths, with SCLC focusing on large-scale campaigns such as Birmingham
Birmingham campaign
The Birmingham campaign was a strategic movement organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to bring attention to the unequal treatment that black Americans endured in Birmingham, Alabama...

 and Selma
Selma to Montgomery marches
The Selma to Montgomery marches were three marches in 1965 that marked the political and emotional peak of the American civil rights movement. They grew out of the voting rights movement in Selma, Alabama, launched by local African-Americans who formed the Dallas County Voters League...

 to win national legislation and SNCC focusing on community-organizing to build political power on the local level. In many communities, there was tension between SCLC and SNCC because SCLC's base was the minister-led Black churches and SNCC was trying to build rival community organizations led by the poor. S.C.L.C. also had its own youth volunteer initiative, the SCOPE Project
SCOPE Project
The Summer Community Organization and Political Education Project of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference was a bold voter registration civil rights initiative conducted from 1965-66 in 120 counties in six southern states.- Founding :While leading the Chatham...

 (Summer Community Organization on Political Education), which placed about 500 young people, mostly white students from nearly 100 colleges and universities, who registered about 49,000 voters in 120 counties in 6 southern states in 1965–66.

In August 1979, head of the SCLC, Joseph Lowery, met with the Palestinian Liberation Organization and endorsed Palestinian
Palestinian people
The Palestinian people, also referred to as Palestinians or Palestinian Arabs , are an Arabic-speaking people with origins in Palestine. Despite various wars and exoduses, roughly one third of the world's Palestinian population continues to reside in the area encompassing the West Bank, the Gaza...

 self-determination and urged the PLO to "consider" recognizing Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

's right to exist.

External links