Civil Rights Movement Leaders
The major Civil Rights organizations evolved through very different histories and leadership philosophies. The NAACP, founded in 1907 to achieve equality for blacks by peaceful means largely through the courts, developed a broad membership base in the South as well as in the North. Thurgood Marshall and other distinguished NAACP lawyers were able to achieve school desegregation in law, although not often in fact. But in Mississippi, NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers, along with Aaron Henry and Amsie Moore confronted segregation directly, and Evers paid with his life in the summer of 1963. SCLC, which grew out of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, was a "top down" organization based on a leadership core of black Baptist ministers -- Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy in Atlanta, Fred Shuttlesworth in Birmingham and others -- energizing their congregations to take direct action against segregation and discrimination. Nonviolence for SCLC was a religious teaching as well as a direct action tactic. CORE was a secular organization, based in northern cities. It grew out of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an American peace organization, and advocated direct action based on Ghandian principles of nonviolence to challenge segregation. CORE is best known for a series of Freedom Rides it carried out beginning in the summer of 1961 to test desegregation of interstate busses and terminal facilities. In the South, it was most active in Louisiana and Mississippi. SNCC was founded in 1960, initially to coordinate the large number of lunch counter sit-ins being conducted by black college students throughout the South. A "bottom up" organization, SNCC distrusted central leadership and focused on helping local people to organize for their own liberation. It was most active in Alabama and especially Mississippi, where it brought a thousand students from Ivy League colleges in the summer of 1964 to teach in Freedom Schools and work at voter registration. Three from this project were murdered by Klansmen near Philadelphia MS early in that summer. After 1964, SNCC began to reorganize around the principle of Black Power, but internal dissension began to gradually diminish its influence.