U.S. Civil Rights

The black community dwelling in Alabama during the period of 1950’s experienced the ordeal of segregation particularly in public places such as movie houses, schools, parks and buses. Participation in elections and holding public offices were prohibited among black people of Montgomery. The year 1955 was the onset of a political rally that resulted from segregation on a public transit. The first event that led to the Montgomery bus boycott was the case of Claudette Colvin, a fifteen-year-old high school student. It was March of 1955; the young girl boarded a bus and declined to provide the seat to a white guy.

Her refusal to follow segregation law resulted to an immediate arrest for violation of the said law and disorderly conduct. Despite early support from the Women’s Political Council (WPC) and the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Colvin’s case failed to unite the black community in the early struggle against segregation (Hendrickson, 1998, p. 5). The second event almost the exact duplicate with the former, Mary Louise Smith’s defiance with bus segregation occurred October of the same year.

The last event was the controversial arrest of an African seamstress, Rosa Parks during the period of December 1955. The incident instigated the Montgomery bus boycott. The title “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement” was bestowed upon Parks after showing strong resistance to racial discrimination through denial of bus seat to a white passenger. The leadership of Martin Luther King contributed to the success of the non-violent protest. Black power, liberalism and non-violence were the guiding viewpoint of SNCC. There are several events that mainly contributed to the development of SNCC.

The election of John Lewis as SNCC chairman in 1963 indicated the jumpstart of the group’s enthusiasm to pursue the movement. The creation of the Freedom Song also had a huge impact putting much emphasis on radicalism. The next event was the Mississippi Summer Project in 1964 which resulted to nationwide distinction. This huge project assembled hundreds of volunteers in the deep South to participate in voter registration and citizenship education drives. During this time, the SNCC also worked closely with CORE and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The election of Stokely Carmichael as SNCC chairman marked the radicalization of the group as Carmichael moved to identify the SNCC with the militant Black Power Movement. His action resulted in the resignation of many of the group’s key leaders. The 1967 election of H. Rap Brown as chairman marked an even greater shift toward militarism. Brown’s election, coupled with the SNCC’s support of the Arab position during the Arab-Israeli War, cut off virtually all funding from white liberal supporters and led to the organization’s collapse in 1970 from loss of leadership and funds (Garrow, 1988, p.

82). The segregation cases and arrests of African-American women namely Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin and Mary Louise Smith led to 381-day protest against inequality. The Montgomery Bus Boycott influenced the mood of the entire nation for civil rights movement. The ultimate success of the Bus Boycott helped encourage future participation and dedication to nonviolence during the Civil Rights Movement, this style of protest was adhered by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

The 1960 sit-down movement at the lunch counter in North Carolina and refusal to abide the segregation law caught public interest and directed to related protests all over the South. It led civil rights workers to organize freedom rides. Freedom Summer planned rallies, schools, and voter registration drives. The culmination of this was the Challenge, to seat African-Americans at the Democratic National Convention in 1964. SNCC brought about strong, locally based, black controlled institutions such as the Mississippi Freedom Democratic party (Payne, 1995, p. 57).

The achievement of SNCC not only highlighted the resistance of the southern black community but also the triumph from being granted the Civil rights acts of 1964 and 1965.


Garrow, D. (1988). Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. , and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. New York: Vintage. Hendrickson, P. (1998, April 12). The Ladies Before Rosa: They Too Wouldn’t Give up Their Seats. Let Us Now Praise Unfamous Women. The Washington Post, p. A4. Payne, C. (1995). I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: the Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle. Berkeley: University of California Press.