How Long? How Long?: African American Women and the Struggle for Civil Rights

By Belinda Robnett | Go to book overview

SIX
Bridging Students to the Movement

BY THE EARLY 1960s, student-organized protests were spreading to southern cities such as Nashville, Tennessee, and Greensboro, North Carolina. The direct-action events in Greensboro precipitated by four students -- Ezell Blair Jr., Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond, all of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College -- received widespread media attention and created a rash of similar sit-ins at lunch counters throughout the South. With the momentum of these events in mind and frustrated by the dominance of ministers within the SCLC, Miss Ella Baker turned her energies to the development of a national student movement organization. She believed that student activists across the South would benefit from contact with one another, and she discussed her idea with the SCLC. Baker comments about the need to coordinate the sit-ins:

It hadn't gone on so long before I suggested that we call a conference of the sitinners. . . . It was very obvious to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that there was little or no communication between those who sat in, say, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and those who sat in at some other place in Virginia or Alabama. They were motivated by what the North Carolina four had started, but they were not in contact with each other. . . . You couldn't build a sustaining force just based on spontaneity. 1

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