Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Freedom Is Indivisible: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Cold War Politics, and International Liberation Movements

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Freedom Is Indivisible: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Cold War Politics, and International Liberation Movements

Article excerpt

This transnational history analyzes the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), its relationship with international liberation struggles, and the place of Cold War politics in defining civil rights from 1960 through the early 1970s. Most accounts of SNCC focus on the organization's grassroots work throughout the American South; on voter registration and nonviolent direct action; and on the organization's later turn to Black Power. Yet SNCC's April 1960 founding conference also emphasized solidarity with international struggles, and my work seeks to restore the organization's broad vision to scholarly attention. I place SNCC's creation within the context of worldwide decolonization movements and independence struggles, arguing that these international shifts were crucial to SNCC's formation.

My project highlights the development of SNCC's Cold War critique of U.S. racial practices as part of the organization's push for civil and human rights. SNCC connected many of its activities in the American South - the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project, for example - with international ideas and movements, and with the potential of Cold War damage to the United States if the country did not create and enforce an America that reflected its proclaimed global values. My project also reveals how decolonization and African independence defined SNCC's domestic civil rights fight. SNCC sought inspiration and practical strategies from struggles in Ghana, Guinea, South Africa, and elsewhere, and I show how SNCC in turn served as a resource for political movements outside the United States. Even as members devoted great energy to domestic fights for political, social, and economic justice, SNCC also turned outward, connecting racial discrimination in the United States to the treatment of people of color throughout the world.

SNCC leaders linked global transformations to changes in the United States, and its organizers and writers emphasized the parallels between domestic racism and colonialism abroad. …

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