From Sit-Ins to SNCC: The Student Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s

From Sit-Ins to SNCC: The Student Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s

From Sit-Ins to SNCC: The Student Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s

From Sit-Ins to SNCC: The Student Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s


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 substantive essays in this collection not only delineate the role of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (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 new research into organizational records and the personal papers of key actors. The contributors provide provocative 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 fiction written by movement activists, and the changing international outlook of student-organized civil rights movements.


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 to provide organizational support for peaceful direct action had fundamental significance for the achievement of the civil rights revolution of the 1960s. SNCC, or “Snick,” as it was known, would be at the forefront of the black freedom struggle until internal dissension and ruthless repression brought about its collapse in the early 1970s.

The student-centered movement for African American civil rights that began in 1960 may not have swept aside all vestiges of racial inequality but it had a major role in destroying the public segregation and black disenfranchisement that were the hallmarks of the South’s Jim Crow system. Accordingly, there were celebratory events to mark the transformative significance of this new activism in the fiftieth anniversary year since its emergence. These included the opening of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum on the former site of the Woolworth store in Greensboro, where the first sit-in took place, and a conference attended by many SNCC veterans at Shaw University, where the organization was first launched. On the other side of the Atlantic there was also recognition of the profound importance of the new protest movement that emerged in 1960. A conference, co-organized by the British Library’s Eccles Centre for American Studies and the Institute for the Study of the Americas (part of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study), marked the half-century anniversary not only of the sit-ins but also the formation and subsequent development of SNCC. This collection of essays written by conference participants is the outcome of that event.

Our book has no claim to be a comprehensive history of the studentcentered civil rights movement that was born in Greensboro and underwent significant evolution in line with SNCC’s changes in outlook over the decade that followed. Instead, it examines selected aspects of this movement to cast light on its complex substance, development, and . . .

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