Civil Rights

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorCollege, Undergraduate February 2008

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Throughout history it has been a struggle for minority groups to gain equal rights and freedoms. On February 1, 1960, a group of black college students from the University of North Carolina refused to leave a Woolworth?s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina where they had been denied service. This sparked a wave of other sit-ins in college towns across the south (1). The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, was treated on the campus of Shaw University in Raleigh two months later to coordinate these sit-ins, support their leaders, and publicize their activities.

Over the next decade, civil rights activism moved beyond lunch counter sit-ins. In this violently changing political climate, SNCC struggled to define its purpose as it fought white oppression. Out of SNCC came some of today?s black leaders, such as former Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry, Congressman John Lewis and NAACP chairman Julian Bond. Together with hundreds of other students, they left a lasting impact on American history.

SNCC?s original statement of purpose established nonviolence as the purpose behind the organization. Unfortunately, things were never that simple. In the early days, during the period of the sit-in movement, nonviolent action was strictly enforced, particularly for public demonstrations, as it was key to the movement?s success.

A majority of SNCC workers were beaten and thrown into prison at least once during their work with the organization. As a result, once strict guidelines of nonviolence were relaxed and members were unofficially permitted to carry guns for self-defense. Eventually whites began to understand the tactic, and nonviolence became less powerful. Whites began to realize SNCC?s peaceful responses to violent oppression were key to gaining support for their cause. If there were no more public violence for SNCC to rise above, their message would be weakened. Thus, protesters were...