Swans Commentary » swans.com November 1, 2010  



Elite Philanthropy, SNCC, And The Civil Rights Movement
(Part I of III)


by Michael Barker





""There is a stark reason why romanticizing the civil rights movement fails young people. It is not supported by the facts. ... Though Jim Crow is dead, the evidence is overwhelming that the culture of white supremacy prevails in a more protected form than was ever possessed by the necessarily embattled idea of Jim Crow."
—Wesley Hogan, 2007. (1)
"In order to find effective solutions, one must formulate the problem correctly. One must start from premises rooted in truth and reality rather than myth."
—Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton, 1967. (2)


(Swans - November 1, 2010)   Fifty years ago, a small group of students came together to fight white supremacy in the United States. They were known as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Since the advent of their pioneering activism, which spanned the 1960s, many books have been written to commemorate their successes, but the first one that was published in 1964 by one of their few adult advisers was Howard Zinn's SNCC: The New Abolitionists. Reflecting on the outstanding commitment of the initial sixteen college students "who, in the fall of 1961, decided to drop everything" to work for social justice Zinn notes how by early 1964 their numbers had swelled to 150 full-time activists. A phenomenal achievement given that: "In the most heated days of abolitionism before the Civil War, there were never that many dedicated people who turned their backs on ordinary pursuits and gave their lives wholly to the movement." (3) But while we should rightly celebrate the individual dedication in the face of massive adversity that was shown by SNCC workers and the thousands of other activists involved in the civil rights movement, it is also necessary to critically reflect upon their legacy.

Manning Marable, in another must-read book, Race, Reform, and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction in Black America, 1945-1990 (University Press of Mississippi, 1991), observes that: "Any oppressed people who abandon the knowledge of their own protest history, or who fail to analyze its lessons, will only perpetuate their domination by others." First published in 1982, this sad book examines the legacy of the modern civil rights and Black Power movements in an attempt "to unearth the reasons for the demise of militancy and activism among African-Americans in the post-1975 period." This demise and the ensuing "human poverty, social disruption and hunger were not accidental," Marable points out, but instead "were the consequences of deliberate federal and corporate policy." Overt racial segregation from the Jim Crow era may have been ditched, but the "paradox of desegregation in the 1980s and early 1990s" was that: "Blacks, Hispanics and other people of color were being more thoroughly oppressed in economic, political, social and educational institutions, without being stigmatized specifically in 'racial' terms." (4)

Reform or revolution? This is a question that is central to effective progressive social change. From many people's point of view there is little doubt that capitalism must be eradicated, so the only question that remains is "how might this revolutionary process proceed?" Revolutionary action does not negate reform, as radical reforms are a critical part of any socialist praxis of change. On the other hand, liberal reforms without revolutionary direction are unlikely to build the momentum that will be necessary to oust capitalism. Thus understanding how leading activists and intellectuals who were formerly committed to revolutionary social change give up on such principles and dedicate their lives to moderating capitalist oppression is critical for social and political movements seeking to resist such challenges. Revolutionary activists are under immense pressure from the state to recant their radical ideas, so it is particularly necessary to scrutinize personal as well as institutional actions if we are to learn the historical lessons that will help us to create movements that can break capitalism's back. By reviewing the history of SNCC in relation to the co-optive nature of capitalism, this article seeks to highlight the influence of Capital on the dynamic interplay between liberal and radical activism. In particular, an attempt is made to delineate the manner by which soft power, as exerted by liberal philanthropists, was able to influence the trajectory of SNCC. Such a focus on elite funding is not, however, meant to suggest that indigenous efforts did not play a significant role in driving the civil rights movement, as the intent is to simply highlight the oft-neglected yet powerful influence that elite philanthropy exerted on homegrown activism and discontent. (5) But before launching into a history of SNCC, this three-part article will provide a brief review of the broader involvement of foundations in the funding of civil rights activism in the United States.

According to Craig Jenkins and Abigail Halcli social movement philanthropy had been growing steadily since the early 1950s when at first there had been only three social movement funders: the Field Foundation of New York, and the Emil Schwartzhaupt and Wiebolt Foundations (both based in Chicago). These foundations thus fulfilled an important role in helping catalyze the modern civil rights movement, and in 1953 the Field Foundation first began supporting the NAACP, (6) while in the same year the Schwartzhaupt and Wiebolt Foundations began funding the Highlander Center "to initiate voter education projects in the deep South, thereby encouraging an approach that would later make Highlander into a 'movement halfway house' for the civil rights movement, providing leadership training and tactical advice to the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC)." (7) Furthermore, Jenkins and Halcli's study of The Development and Impact of Social Movement Philanthropy between the years 1953 and 1990 lead them to conclude that "foundation patronage is overwhelmingly reactive to indigenous protest activism." (8)Yet arguably a more critical look at this era, and at the history of liberal foundations more broadly, would suggest that it is often much harder to judge the exact role played by capitalist funders in helping catapult issues onto the public agenda. It is clear that under usual circumstances there must be a public demand for change for elites to encourage institutional change, but as this article will demonstrate, the timing of successful grassroots campaigns may be largely influenced by Capital. That capitalism should respond in such a way to grassroots pressure should come as no surprise, and as Howard Zinn observed:

[T]here has been a nervousness in high places ever since the Negro revolt began -- an anxiety over how far it would go and sporadic moves to contain it before it becomes dangerous. This does not come out of a conspiratorial plot by hobgoblins of reaction; it springs with more or less spontaneity out of the historic American tendency towards moderation whenever there is a forward thrust of social change. And it comes from liberals as often as from conservatives. (9)

So for instance, with regard to the activities of the liberal establishment, by the late 1930s the philanthropic behemoth, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, had already diverted more than $250 million to institutions concerned with problems of race; while another key educational body for distributing elite philanthropy was the United Negro College Fund, founded in 1944 with the support of John D. Rockefeller Jr. Likewise, if one examines significant philanthropic activities that took place just prior to the time period covered by Jenkins and Halcli's study, one can see that the Ford Foundation created their Fund for the Advancement of Education (FAE) in 1952 -- an organization whose "support for desegregation became apparent" when Ralph Bunche was chosen to serve on their founding board of trustees. Bunche had been "a primary researcher" for the Carnegie Corporation-sponsored study on race relations in America, whose influential findings were published in 1944 by Gunnar Myrdal as An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. (10) The Ford Foundations Fund for the Advancement of Education later...

...sponsored a major study of the legal history and empirical dynamics of institutional racism in American public education. It hired Harry S. Ashmore, a widely respected commentator on race relations and executive editor of the Arkansas Gazette, to direct the study. Published on the eve of the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board Of Education decision, The Negro and the Schools (Ashmore Report) crystallized FAE's mission and helped nationalize the race debate. (11)

Simultaneously, US-based liberal foundations like the Rockefeller, Ford, and Carnegie Corporation were working closely with the US government both on the domestic front and internationally. Consequently, the Ford Foundation's decision to begin focusing their attention on African affairs in the 1950s "was a logical extension of similar emphases in the foundation's domestic work"; and in their efforts to create an elite cadre for Africa, they simultaneously set about "nurturing an academic and intellectual elite which would play the leadership role in the evolving domestic policy found its best expression in the work of the Ford-created and -supported Fund for the Advancement of Education." (12)

Criticism of elite philanthropy has been longstanding in radical milieu, even if such polemics are rarely cited or publicized. For instance, in 1933, leading American Marxist Max Schachtman penned a draft pamphlet (which ironically has only just been published) titled Communism and the Negro. Here Schactman noted: "At no point do the ruling class and its supporters reveal their utter bankruptcy in so glaring a light than when they are confronted with the unpleasant, inconvenient 'Negro problem.'" His powerful polemic highlighted the hypocrisy of the "segregationist ideology" of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the existence of a "whole school of philanthropists" devoted to the question of the Negroes. (13) Schactman drew particular attention to the influential Julius Rosenwald Fund, writing:

The Rosenwalds, swollen with a wealth extorted from underpaid and undernourished young girls in their employ, give a modicum of it for the "education" of the black, for whom they entertain a not-very-well concealed contempt, in order that he shall be less inclined to fight for the uprooting of the poisonous tree of capitalism on which the Rosenwalds' grow. The same motive impels the comparatively large contributions made by philanthropic whites for religious work among the Negroes. (14)

Writing some decades later Martin Carnoy makes a similar point, noting that: "While Northern capitalism has been associated with humanitarian treatment of the black -- and it must be conceded that a humanitarian element was present in philanthropic efforts during Reconstruction and around the end of the century -- humanitarianism was always secondary to capitalists' economic needs." (15) This situation put leading progressive Negro scholars, like W.E.B. Du Bois and Carter Woodson in an uncomfortable position, especially given the regularity with which their philanthropic benefactors advertised their racism to the world. For example, following Woodson's criticism of Thomas Jesse Jones's 1917 report for the Phelps-Stokes Fund -- which "argued that the foundations should only support black colleges that stuck to vocational education, along the lines of Hampton Institute and Tuskegee Institute" -- "Jones [in retaliation] convinced many foundations, including the Rosenwald Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and the [Rockefeller-funded] General Education Board, to terminate foundation support" for Woodson and his Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. (16) Such disputes were particularly problematic given the intimate relations that existed between the various Northern philanthropic bodies, (17) and so "commonsense" prevailed and Woodson quickly reestablished a serviceable working relationship with the foundation world. (Later, during the 1930s, his Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History would be largely funded by the Rosenwald Fund.)

Likewise, although St. Clair Drake and Horace Mann Bond had tended to hold their tongues with regard their criticisms of the philanthropic community (in public anyway), by 1945 they felt confident enough to print a vaguely critical sentence in their landmark study Black Metropolis, writing: "Faith and hope play some part in dispersing the discontent of the masses, but 'charity' is probably far more important." (18) Indeed, such intent to disperse discontent through the philanthropic development of responsible leaders perhaps helps explain why in December 1946 the Rosenwald Fund awarded the activist training organization, the Highlander Center, a $15,000 grant "to develop an education program for potential community leaders in the rural South." One might also add that the influential civil rights activist, Ella Baker -- who would go on to work closely with many of the Highlander-trained activists -- had been a staff member of the reformist NAACP (between 1940 and 1946) when it was receiving support from the Rosenwald Fund: Baker then moved on to play a key role in the ongoing evolution of the civil rights movement, by initially helping to found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. (19)

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was founded in 1957 by Martin Luther King, Bayard Rustin, and Stanley Levinson, and the following year, Ella Baker set up their first office in Atlanta, becoming their first full-time executive secretary. Baker, however, was already well acquainted with Rustin and Levinson, as in 1956 they had formed In Friendship, a group that provided the original impetus for the formation of the SCLC. Baker subsequently went on to play an important role as a supporting actor and critical insider for the germinal student wing of the civil rights movement, and: (20)

Deciding, in late February of 1960, that the sit-in leaders should be brought together, she asked the SCLC to underwrite it financially. With $800 of SCLC money, the prestige of Martin Luther King, the organizing wisdom of Ella Baker, and the enthusiasm of the rare young people who were leading the new student movement, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee [SNCC] was born. (21)

However, two weeks prior to SNCC's founding meeting the Highlander Center had brought over seventy students from seven states to attend a workshop titled "The New Generation Fights for Equality." (22) Subsequently, what was to be SNCC's founding conference was held in Raleigh on Easter weekend, April 15-17, 1960. Baker "got her Alma Mater, Shaw University, to provide facilities for a meeting of about a hundred students" but the event turned out to be more popular than she had expected and in the end over 200 students participated. (23) Yet, even at this early stage of the student movement's evolution, the latent radicalism of the group was apparent in relation to the more moderate SCLC, and during the conferences "organizing sessions, there was some tension over whether to have an official connection with SCLC." This tension was ultimately resolved when the students "finally decided to maintain a friendly relationship with SCLC and other organizations but to remain independent." (24)

In addition to obtaining Baker's invaluable guidance, a white student activist named Constance Curry was recruited to become SNCC's second adult adviser. Curry was then able to redirect grant money from the Marshall Field Foundation "to help the fledgling movement"; monies that were in Curry's hands because at the time she was running the National Student Association's Southern Student Human Relations Project (the Southern Project), which was being supported by the Field Foundation. (25) With regard to SNCC's initial fundraising efforts, when the office was being run by Baker, Curry, and their newly recruited executive secretary, Jane Stembridge, Curry recalled that the "first check" they received that summer was from Eleanor Roosevelt. (26) In July the trio were then joined by former Harvard graduate Robert Moses. As it happens, Moses had come to Atlanta at "the urging of" Bayard Rustin "to work on an SCLC voter registration project," but he quickly ended up working with SNCC, who were then based in the corner of SCLC's Atlanta office. (27)

Despite SNCC's nominal financial independence from SCLC, Jim Forman -- who served as SNCC's executive secretary from 1961 until 1966 -- recalled that in these early days they "had to rely heavily upon contributions" from SCLC, "which was like pulling teeth." (28) Although this aid certainly helped in some respects, it simultaneously made it more difficult for SNCC to be seen in the public mind as a separate entity from SCLC so that they could secure direct financial support from the public. Bearing this in mind, it is noteworthy that funding dilemmas actually proved to be one of SNCC's "first crises," as they had obtained funding from the AFL-CIO to run a conference in October 1960 in which SNCC would "be formalized by the election of representatives to a permanent Coordinating Committee." The funding crisis then eventuated because SNCC had invited Bayard Rustin to speak at the event, and the AFL responded by saying that "they would not give the money if he were going to speak." SNCC eventually caved in to the union's demand, and this led to their conference organizer, Jane Stembridge, leaving the Committee. (29) But despite the union's obsession with Rustin, who they considered to be too radical, he was far from it, as Rustin had already attempted to moderate the SNCC by trying to get them to insert a clause in their constitution to bar communists from membership. Although Rustin had failed in this effort, he had already succeeded in getting "SDS to put such a clause in its early constitution." (30)


(A correction was made on Nov. 1 to reflect the proper name of the SNCC in the first paragraph: It is the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, not the Student Nonviolent Organizing Committee.)


[ed. Next: Part II.]


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Michael Barker is an independent researcher who currently resides in the UK. In addition to his work for Swans, which can be found in the 2008, 2009, and 2010 archives, his other articles can be accessed at michaeljamesbarker.wordpress.com. Please help fund his work.   (back)


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1.  Wesley Hogan, Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC's Dream for a New America (University of North Carolina Press, 2007), p.5.  (back)

2.  Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America (Penguin Books, 1971 [1967]), p.12.  (back)

3.  Howard Zinn, SNCC: The New Abolitionists (Beacon Press, 1964), p.3, p.10, p.3.  (back)

4.  Manning Marable, Race, Reform, and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction in Black America, 1945-1990 (University Press of Mississippi, 1991 [1982]), p.xi, p.ix, p.x.  (back)

5.  For example, Manning Marable's otherwise comprehensive book Race, Reform, and Rebellion categorically fails to discuss the influence of liberal foundations on the civil rights movement.  (back)

6.  Before the 1950s, the Julius Rosenwald Fund whose operations were dissolved in 1948 (as per the request of its founder), had been a major funder of the NAACP's work. Writing in the NAACP's official journal, The Crisis, A Gilbert Belles noted how in hard times, both the NAACP and the Urban League "turned to sympathetic whites for financial assistance." Belles continues: "One major drawback often resulted from this dependence on white philanthropy; donors of large amounts of money felt obliged to recommend policies that controlled the operation of the NAACP and NUL. These attempts were resisted with varying degrees of success." A Gilbert Belles, "The NAACP, the Urban League, and the Julius Rosenwald Fund," Crisis, 86 (3), 1979 , p.97.  (back)

7.  Craig Jenkins and Abigail Halcli, "Grassrooting the System? The Development and Impact of Social Movement Philanthropy, 1953-1990," In: Ellen Condliffe Lagemann (ed.), Philanthropic Foundations: New Scholarship, New Possibilities (Indiana University Press, 1999), pp.230-1. "In 1953, there were only four social movement grants totaling $85,700." (p.231) The other key grantee in 1953 was Saul Alinsky's Industrial Areas Foundation, which used the monies to launch the Community Service Organization in California.

The Highlander Center was founded in 1932 and their initial advisory board included Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, the international secretary of the international YMCA Sherwood Eddy, Socialist party leader Norman Thomas, and Kirby Page of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. See, John Glen, Highlander: No Ordinary School (University of Tennessee Press, 1996), p.20. Like most radical educational institutions, over the years Highlander has suffered from funding problems; and right from the get go, "In 1933-34 Highlander was in deep financial trouble." Thus, while Highlander's cofounders (Myles Horton and Don West) had intended that "the school's programs should be largely self-sustaining" by relying upon the support of their grass-roots participants, Niebuhr used his close connection to the project to encourage a broader fund raising approach, and he "used his influence to secure money and materials for Highlander and urged Horton to seek foundation grants." (p.32) During its early years Highlander became well respected for its work with labor activists, and in the year that Eleanor Roosevelt started funding the group, in 1940, their executive council was "composed largely of AFL and CIO officials". (p.70, p.81) Later, owing to their commitment to running a desegregated school, in December 1946 the Julius Rosenwald Fund awarded them a $15,000 grant "to develop an education program for potential community leaders in the rural South." (p.122) In 1953 Highlander set up their Citizenship Schools program, which they ran until 1961 and were arguably "Highlander's most significant contribution to the civil rights movement and perhaps the most important single program the folk school staff ever developed." (p.185) "The primary aim of the program would be to train leaders in the use of educational methods that would not only promote 'rural citizenship' [in the South] but also establish a 'continuous relationship' between Highlander and these leaders." In 1953 this ambitious program for developing Citizenship Schools obtained the support of the Schwarzhaupt Foundation who initially gave them a three-year grant worth $44,100, and a further $56,150 in July 1956 to continue the program for another three years. (p.186, p.193) In early 1961 the Schwarzhaupt Foundation again supported Highlander's work on a local spin off from this program, the Southeastern Georgia Crusade for Voters which later in the year became affiliated with SCLC. (p.202) Not long after their work on the Crusade for Voters project, the Field Foundation worked with Highlander to transfer the management of the Citizenship Schools to the SCLC. (pp.203-6) One should also note that the building momentum of the civil rights movement witnessed an increase in foundation support for Highlander: "In 1957 only $4,000 of its total income of $39,000 had come from foundations; in comparison, by the end of the 1958 fiscal year the school's income had shot up to nearly $114,300, with foundation granting over $73,000." (p.216)  (back)

8.  Jenkins and Halcli, "Grassrooting the System?", p.243, p.247. The one notable exception during the period of their study was the consumer-rights movement.  (back)

9.  Zinn, SNCC, p.217.  (back)

10.  Gregory Raynor, "The Ford Foundation's War on Poverty," In: Ellen Condliffe Lagemann (ed.), Philanthropic Foundations: New Scholarship, New Possibilities (Indiana University Press, 1999), p.198. "By 1952, Ford and FAE aroused serious opposition from southern communities, elected officials, and Ford Motor Company dealerships. Segregationists boycotted Ford products and threatened a broader political reaction against Foundation- and FAE-sponsored desegregation experiments." (p.199)  (back)

11.  Raynor, "The Ford Foundation's War on Poverty," p.199.  (back)

12.  Edward Berman, "The Foundations Role in American Foreign Policy: The Case of Africa, post 1945," In: Robert Arnove (ed.) Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism: The Foundations at Home and Abroad (G.K. Hall, 1980), p.209. "The concern with world stability and the need to incorporate peripheral areas into the American-dominated world capitalist system led the foundations to concentrate their university programs in African areas considered of strategic and economic importance to the United States government and American corporations with African investments." (p.209) For more on the role of the Ford Foundation in co-opting the race issue in both the United States and abroad, see Michael Barker, "Liberal Foundations and Anti-Racism Activism," Swans Commentary, August 24, 2009; Michael Barker, "Liberal Philanthropy and Social Change in South Africa," Swans Commentary, April 5, 2010.  (back)

13.  The pamphlet was first published in 2003 and was edited by Christopher Phelps, see Max Schactman, Race and Revolution (Verso, 2003), p.49, p.52, p.60. Phelps points out how Schactman "put strong emphasis on slave insurrection as a form of class conflict with the Old South and as proof of the mythological nature of images of slave contentment promoted by apologists for slavery. This he asserted a decade before Herbert Aptheker, the Communist historian, produced his now famous book on slave rebellion." Phelps also notes that "Schactman explained what Aptheker never quite did: why slave rebellions so often failed, namely because of their lack of allies in the wider population, and why they lacked such allies." (pp.xxii-xxiii)  (back)

14.  Schactman, Race and Revolution, p.52.  (back)

15.  Martin Carnoy, Education as Cultural Imperialism (Longman Inc., 1974), p.273. As Carnoy observes, it is important to recognize that: "Winning at least some control over one's own destiny, however, especially for a people who have been oppressed during their entire history in this country, does have important psychological effects. Political and social learning as a result of community control may not be the end point of a liberation period, but the beginning of something much more extensive and profound, depending upon who controls the community control movement. Cooptation by establishment blacks and Chicanos would ensure that the building of self-identity and the use of the schools for real community social change and political development be subverted to the needs of the corporate structure." (p.258)  (back)

16.  Michael Barker, "An Interview with Jerry Gershenhorn," Swans Commentary, June 28, 2010; Jerry Gershenhorn, Melville J. Herskovits and the Racial Politics of Knowledge (University of Nebraska Press, 2004), p.145. Over the course of a long career, leading NAACP spokesperson, W.E.B. DuBois, maintained a delicate relationship with the white philanthropists who funded much of his work. Thus despite his intermittent public criticism of the philanthropic community, Max Schactman's 1933 pamphlet singled him out for criticism owing to his current work for the NAACP. Du Bois' critique of Thomas Jesse Jones was printed as, W.E.B. DuBois, "Negro Education," Crisis,15 (4), February 1918. This is reprinted in Eugene Provenzo (ed.) DuBois on Education (Altamira Press, 2002), pp.123-32.  (back)

17.  The Rosenwald Fund had been founded in 1917 by Julius Rosenwald with its structure "based on the model of the Rockefeller Foundation on which he previously served as a board member"; and when Rosenwald had set up the Fund, he was initially "persuaded by Booker T. Washington to contribute to building Black rural schoolhouses." Likewise, in 1928 the newly appointed president of the Fund, Edwin Embree -- who served in this position for twenty years -- was the former director of Divisions for Studies at the Rockefeller Foundation, and former employee of the General Education Board.

Wayne Urban, "Philanthropy and the Black Scholar: The Case of Horace Mann Bond," Journal of Negro Education, 58 (4), 1989, p.480, p.481. Here Urban provides a useful account of Horace Mann Bond's long and ultimately negative relationship with the Rosenwald Fund (who "halted his scholarly development" p.493).  (back)

18.  St. Clair Drake and Horace Mann Bond, Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City -- Volume II (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1970 [1945]), p.717. Later in their book they added: "The primary activity of most 'accepted' leaders centers around raising money to finance such organizations as the NAACP, the Urban League, the Provident Hospital, the YMCA, the YWCA, the Federated Women's Clubs, and a number of other organizations. The leaders of these groups are upper-class and upper-middle-class men and women who 'have the confidence of the community' and who can secure donations from white philanthropists and funds such as the Community Chest, the Community Trust, the Rosenwald Fund, etc." (pp.740-1)  (back)

19.  In her excellent history of liberal philanthropy, Joan Roelofs writes: "The NAACP (founded in 1909) represented a conservative, elite-led approach to racial integration and was aided during its formative years by the Rosenwald and Peabody funds. Its original anti-imperialist tendencies were gradually transformed as pragmatic gains seemed possible. The early donors were joined by J. D. Rockefeller Jr., Edsel Ford, and the Garland Fund, among others. 'By 1928, on the eve of the Depression, the NAACP had amassed a sufficient surplus of funds to invest part of its income in an impressive array of stocks and bonds.'" Joan Roelofs, Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism (State University of New York Press, 2003), p.111.  (back)

20.  "From the 1930s until her death in 1986, Ella Baker participated in over thirty organizations and campaigns ranging from the Negro cooperative movement during the Depression to the Free Angela Davis campaign in the 1970s." Barbara Ransby, "Behind-the-Scenes View of a Behind-the-Scenes Organizer: The Roots of Ella Baker's Political Passions," In: Bettye Collier-Thomas and V.P. Franklin (eds.) Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement (New York University Press, 2001), p.42.  (back)

21.  Zinn, SNCC, p.33. Of SNCC's predecessors, Hogan writes: "Though it drew many new people into the struggle, the sit-in movement faltered in the fall of 1960. Publicity declined as the novelty of protests wore off and as local white governments refined the practice of co-opting black college administrators dependent on the local power structure." Hogan, Many Minds, One Heart, p.40.

Shortly after the CORE Freedom Rides were disbanded (owing to extreme oppression), "twenty-one students -- the mainstays of the 1960 Nashville [nonviolence] workshops -- prepared to leave for Alabama" to restart the Freedom Rides. After initially being forcefully ejected from Alabama they returned in force and met a brutal welcome from the local whites. When Martin Luther King flew in to support the Riders, Robert Kennedy was forced to use federal troops and declare martial law to break up the white mobs which surrounded King's rally in Montgomery's First Baptist Church, "threaten[ing] to burn the church and shoot everyone who ran outside." "Two days later, on May 24, Greyhound buses left with Freedom Riders for Jackson, Mississippi. Unbeknownst to the Riders, Robert Kennedy had made a secret deal with the state of Mississippi - he would not enforce federal law in the state in return for a pledge that there would be no visible, public violence inflicted upon the Riders. Kennedy's compromise had the effect of undercutting the Riders' intent to compel federal enforcement of U.S. law in the Deep South." Hogan, Many Minds, One Heart, p.47, 49.  (back)

22.  Glen, Highlander, p.174. "SNCC's [newly formed] leadership included several members of Highlander's 'New Generation' workshop, foreshadowing a relationship that would persist well into the 1960s. Marian Barry, later elected major of Washington, D.C., became SNCC's first chairman in 1960; John Lewis would rise to national prominence as chairman of SNCC between 1963 and 1966 and became a Georgia congressman in 1986; Bernard Lafayette served as a SNCC field secretary until 1963; and James Bevel worked closely with SNCC while remaining a militant member of the SCLC staff." (p.177)  (back)

23.  Zinn, SNCC, p.33.  (back)

24.  Zinn, SNCC, p.34. Marking the time of her break with the SCLC, "Baker took a decisive step when she publicly opposed the proposal of SCLC leaders Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy, and Wyatt T. Walker to make SNCC a youth wing of SCLC." Hogan, Many Minds, One Heart, p.41.  (back)

25.  Formed in 1941 by Marshall Field III, the Chicago banker and publisher of The Chicago Sun-Times, the Field Foundation "supported health programs for children, programs that sought to improve race relations and other programs devoted to international peace." In 1960 the foundation was divided into two separate entities: the Field Foundation of New York and the Field Foundation of Illinois.  (back)

26.  Constance Curry, "Wild Geese to the Past," In: Constance Curry et al. (eds.) Deep in Our Hearts: Nine White Women in the Freedom Movement (University of Georgia Press, 2000), p.15, p.13, p.16. Prior to moving to the Southern Project (in December 1959), Curry had been recruited by Allard Lowenstein (in 1957) to replace Lowenstein as the new national field secretary of the Collegiate Council for the United Nations -- the student affiliate of American Association for the United Nations that had been founded by Eleanor Roosevelt. (p.11) (For more details on Lowenstein's manipulative background see PART II -- forthcoming) Curry left NSA and the SNCC executive committee in early 1964, spending the next eleven years of her life working as the southern field representative for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). In 1966 she also became the administrator for the AFSC Family Aid Fund, a fund that had been "supported for ten years by grants from the Ford Foundation, had been established to help southern families or individuals who were harassed, or worse, in their attempts to exercise their civil rights." Ford later terminated their funding of AFSC's work in 1975. (p.25, p.31)

As one of SNCC's first funders, Eleanor Roosevelt had a longstanding commitment to social activism having first taught immigrant children at the Rivington Street Settlement House (in New York City) in 1903 -- although she quit this work in 1905 when she married Franklin Roosevelt. Over the years Eleanor worked closely with a wide variety of liberal human rights organizations, for example, she had joined the advisory board of the American Friends Service Committee in the 1930s, and in 1951 became vice president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Amongst her other assorted social commitments she also helped found the Southern Conference for Human Welfare; chaired the National Committee for Justice in Columbia, Tennessee; and endorsed the Southern Conference Education Fund. According to her biographer, Allida Black, "black activists trusted her commitment to racial equality" but at the end of the day she was "the consummate liberal power broker": this tension between Eleanor's work for social justice and her more radical contemporaries can be seen through her disagreements with NAACP stalwart W.E.B. DuBois, who eventually left the NAACP in 1948 as a result of their differences. Allida Black, Casting Her Own Shadow: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Shaping of Postwar Liberalism (Columbia University Press, 1996), p.86, p.3, pp.100-2.  (back)

27.  Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Harvard University Press, 1981), p.26, p.46. After completing his junior year at Hamilton College Moses had "worked in a European summer camp sponsored by the pacifistic American Friends Service Committee, and the following year he worked at a similar camp in Japan." He then did graduate studies at Harvard University (which he completed in June 1957), and in 1959 he "helped veteran black activist Bayard Rustin in organizing the second Youth March for Integrated Schools." (p.46) In 1982 Moses obtained a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, which he used to help create the Algebra Project -- see Robert Moses, Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project (Beacon Press, 2002).

"The first [SNCC] meeting after the Raleigh Conference was held in May 1960, on the campus of Atlanta University. About fifteen of the student leaders were there, as were Martin Luther King, Jr., James Lawson, Ella Baker, Len Holt (a CORE lawyer from Norfolk, Virginia), and observers from the National Student Association, the YWCA, the American Friends Service Committee, and other groups. They now called themselves the Temporary Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and elected Marion Barry, at this time doing graduate work at Fisk, as chairman." Zinn, SNCC, p.34.  (back)

28.  James Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries (Open Hand Publishing, 1985 [1972]), p.161.  (back)

29.  Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries, p.219. Forman writes that "it is my informed guess that the so-called liberal and also conservative forces around the country saw the student sit-in movement as something that could become useful to the foreign policy of the United States. After all, the students were closely allied to the philosophy of Dr. King, who posed no serious threat to the foreign policy of this country. In fact, his emphasis on nonviolence, love, and religion made him a darling of the U.S. State Department. ... In this same spirit, the AFL-CIO could offer funds to SNCC but with a string attached. And its success in preventing Rustin from speaking must have suggested that is was indeed possible to influence if not control the student movement." (pp.219-20)  (back)

30.  Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries, p.220. Historian Clayborne Carson writes: "While Forman argued consistently within SNCC for a greater emphasis on class analyses, he was by no means doctrinaire Marxist. He strongly opposed the efforts of Marxist groups to supply SNCC with a preconceived ideology. Thus, despite his belief in the ideal of open association, he apparently acquiesced [to H. Rap Brown's demand] in the expulsion of two known members of the Communist Party, Franklin Alexander and Angela Davis, from the Los Angeles SNCC chapter to ensure that the SNCC chapter remained independent of outside control." Carson, In Struggle, p.270.

Towards the end of the 1960s Forman recognized how the problems that stemmed from the SNCC's focus on community organizing and neglect of the political education of their activists had left them prone to the government attempts to "co-opt the work of community organizers." He continued: "It would pay people to work in its poverty programs -- a reformist trap designed to militate against basic changes... The cry for community control is a false one within the present structure of this society. Nevertheless, action geared to achieving community control can help people realize the impossibility of that goal if the proper political education goes along with the action." Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries, p.238.  (back)


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Published November 1, 2010