Swans Commentary » swans.com November 15, 2010  



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


by Michael Barker





[ed. Read Part I of this review.]


(Swans - November 15, 2010)   As always, the discussion of radicalism versus reformism -- or even challenging versus accommodating forms of activism -- played an important part in the evolution of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Negro activists from the South involved with SNCC were particularly wary of the more moderate ambitions of "white liberals with money and of the national government," both of whom were supportive of concentrating on voter registration and backing "Robert Kennedy's call for a 'cooling-off' period during the Freedom Rides," which "reinforced the suspicion that an attempt was being made to cool the militancy of the student movement and divert the youngsters to slower, safer activity." As it turned out such concerns were valid, and on June 16, 1961, various civil rights groups (including SNCC) met with Robert Kennedy, where he proceeded to assure activists that if they redirected their energies towards voter registration, "financial support for such projects would be made available by private foundations." (1) But this was not all, and well in advance of the Kennedy meeting the Justice Department's civil rights chief Burke Marshall, the outgoing Southern Regional Council executive director Harold Fleming, and the philanthropist Stephen Currier, (2) had...

...devised a plan for the establishment of a privately funded, nonpartisan, region-wide registration drive that would coordinate the efforts of all the interested civil rights organizations. The Justice Department, of course, could not finance voter registration, but a well-funded private initiative would mesh neatly with the Kennedy-Marshall idea that filing federal voting rights suits would be more effective than pursuing legislative battles with an unresponsive Congress. Fleming's proposal gained strength throughout the summer. At an informal retreat on June 9 in Capahosic, Virginia, civil rights representatives responded enthusiastically to the idea. (3)

In this regard, the SNCC's Timothy Jenkins then met with Harry Belafonte to discuss fundraising plans for voter registration, Belafonte acting as an important go-between, as he was "a personal friend of the Kennedys who was earlier involved in the discussions with Justice Department officials regarding voter registration." (4) Jenkins subsequently secured funding from the New World Foundation to hold a three-week student leadership seminar in Nashville beginning on July 30, 1961. "We made a calculated attempt to pull the best people out of the movement," Jenkins commented, "and give them a solid academic approach to understanding the movement." (5)

Howard Zinn provides a useful overview of these events:

Through the summer of 1961, fifteen or twenty people on the Coordinating Committee were meeting every month: at Louisville in June, at Baltimore in July, at the Highlander Folk School, Tennessee, in August. Tim Jenkins, a slim, energetic, bright young Negro who was vice-president of the National Student Association, came to the June meeting with a proposal that SNCC make the registration of Negro voters in the South its main activity. That started a controversy which simmered, unsettled, throughout the summer. It came to a boil at the Highlander meeting in August, where the issue was posed sharply: would SNCC concentrate on a methodical, grinding campaign to register Negro voters in the Black Belt? Or would it conduct more sensational direct-action campaigns -- sit-ins, kneel-ins, wade-ins, picket lines, boycotts, etc. -- to desegregate public facilities?

Even before the Freedom Rides began, Jenkins had been attending a series of meetings in which representatives of several foundations, including the Taconic and the Field Foundations, discussed the raising of substantial funds to support a large-scale voter registration effort in the South. Present at these meetings were Burke Marshall, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Rights Division, and Harris Wofford, special assistant to President Kennedy on civil rights. Jenkins was asked by the Foundation people to broach the idea to his friends in SNCC. (6)

With Jenkins strongly committed to abstaining from direct action in favor of voter registration drives, inevitable splits were aggravated within the newly formed organization at the August Highlander meeting. SNCC adviser Ella Baker thus played a critical role in helping to "reconcile the opposing viewpoints." This led to a compromise whereby two arms of SNCC were created, with Diane Nash managing their direct action projects, and Charles Jones in charge of their voter registration work. (7) Later in the year, Jim Forman, a thirty-three-year-old teacher, was recruited by Nash to become the SNCC's executive secretary.

Forman recalled that prior to his joining SNCC in the summer of 1961, contact had already been made with the government and foundations to finance voter education efforts. Yet although these meetings continued when he was at the helm of the SNCC, in retrospect he described the Voter Education Project as a "tax dodge" used by foundations that were friendly to the Democratic Party ("especially Field and Taconic" foundations) to register Democratic voters. However, he still felt justified in taking this funding, as he noted that SNCC used it to "lay bare the injustices perpetrated upon black people -- among them denial of the vote" -- taking their work into the rural areas where physical repression was strongest. He added: "We would be walking a thin line of contradiction in the American system, but we felt able to do it." (8)

In the wake of McCarthyism, accepting grants from more radical philanthropic sources also provided food for thought for Forman. For instance, one "important addition to SNCC's meager income" around this time came from Anne Braden in the form of a $5,000 grant from the Southern Conference Education Fund (SCEF), which was approved during the summer of 1961, and was "subsequently renewed for two years." This support raised the hackles of conservatives as SCEF had been "founded during the 1930s with the help of communists." However, by the 1960s the group was well accepted by liberals, and "its supporters included many noncommunists, including Eleanor Roosevelt." (9) Nevertheless, obtaining such monies was not without it own attendant problems, and Forman recounts how when he went to visit Andrew Norman (in 1962) to talk about obtaining funding from the Norman Fund, he was "told that it would be impossible to get money from them as long as we accepted help from SCEF." Forman rejected this blunt advice, and significantly went on to point out how "[T]he Norman Fund was later implicated as a CIA conduit in the exposure of the operations of the CIA and the National Student Association." (10)

In the face of such problems SNCC's money problems continued, and Forman recalls how in 1963, "I continued to be overworked, worried about the lack of money and the survival of SNCC, and tense from fieldwork in the Deep South." However, he writes that although he accepted the idea that donating money to support activism is a political issue, "I also reject the popular notion that he who pays the piper calls the tune, for my experience has been that you can put radical policies up front and stick to them and still get financial help." Yet despite SNCC's fetish for decentralization, ideologically-speaking his organization was just the type of group that could be influenced by elite funders, as "[o]pen criticism and self-criticism were not the style of the SNCC" and, as Forman continues with respect to their work in 1964, their "lack of ideology" meant they were "caught in the habits of thinking about short-term objectives only." This is on top of the fact that SNCC had systemic funding problems. (11)

Such problems escalated during the summer of 1963 in the wake of the June 12 assassination of Medgar Evers (in Jackson, Mississippi) when the liberal financial backers of the civil rights movement took more affirmative steps to pacify its increasing militancy. Taconic Foundation officials feared that the news of assassination "could mean 'a terrible blowup in the South,' [their executive director Jane Lee J.] Eddy remembered, and they wondered what they could do to help." (12) Thus, with "the prompting of Robert Kennedy, Attorney General in the Kennedy administration," and "[u]nder the direction of philanthropist Stephen Currier of the Taconic Foundation" -- with the additional support of the Norman and the New York Foundations -- the Council for United Civil Rights Leadership was formed to coordinate planning for the March on Washington, and to organize funding for voter registration drives.

The Council for United Civil Rights Leadership was co-chaired by Stephen Currier and Whitney Young (an individual who in 1968 went on to become a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation), and was based on the informal meetings they had organized with moderate civil rights leaders during the early parts of the year. (13) Currier raised $800,000 to be dispensed by this Council, funding which drew the SNCC reluctantly (at Forman's insistence) into the coalition. Yet because SNCC representatives "wanted the financial backing of liberals but refused to restrain their militancy or to discontinue their attempts to expose liberal hypocrisy," SNCC only received $15,000 of the initial funds. (14)

So despite all of SNCC's organizing successes, the organization "was actually in crisis in the Deep South" and the "lack of funds barely allowed SNCC to support its existing staff and field workers." This, combined with the "lack of public visibility or federal protection," meant that the organizers and the people they tried to recruit on their morale-sapping voter registration drives -- which had resulted in the registration of about five percent of the black voting age population -- were exposed to real danger. So it is significant that at this point of organizational vulnerability Tim Jenkins, who was down in Mississippi on summer break from Yale Law School with some legal friends, "discovered a statute that allowed residents to cast protest votes in party primaries." (15) This led to a refocus of SNCC's work on the idea of the Freedom Vote.

As the idea of the Freedom Vote spread, so did white terror. Medgar Evers of the state NAACP had been murdered in June 1963. Court injunctions prevented political protest in Greenwood and elsewhere. Massive violence and heavy fines were slowing down COFO [Council of Federated Organizations] activity. In the midst of these traumatic events, an energetic Democratic Party organizer and white New Yorker named Allard Lowenstein first visited the COFO projects determined to find ways to increase the movement's visibility. (16)

With the support of some parts of COFO, Lowenstein -- whom Foreman later came to suspect of being "close to CIA circles if not actually on its payroll" (17) -- soon began to recruit northern white students to work as volunteers on the Freedom Vote project: he was able to do this "through contacts developed as an instructor at Yale Law School and as dean of freshman at Stanford." As it turned out, Lowenstein's "style jarred many SNCC people, especially Ella Baker"; and while he succeeded in bringing publicity to the campaign, "his approach contradicted the strategic practice SNCC had used since initiating the Mississippi project -- a relentless focus on developing local, long-term leadership." In fact, the "majority of COFO workers expressed concern that northern whites would usurp leadership positions, draw publicity, and then leave," but the SNCC's recruitment drive for the Mississippi Summer Project went ahead anyway. (18)

It was an agonizing irony that at the very moment local blacks began to take the initiative, some members of SNCC argued that only national publicity and federal intervention could sustain the movement in the face of the white terrorist response to that initiative. (19)

The first batch of some 100 students (recruited by Lowenstein) traveled down to help with the Freedom Vote in late 1963, paving the way for the following year's Freedom Summer that saw a further 1,000 people, mostly students "drawn from elite colleges and universities," journey south to Mississippi. (20) Financial matters again played a critical role in reinforcing the decision for SNCC to recruit Ivy League students, as they "simply lacked the resources to subsidize the participation of the summer volunteers." (21) This led some commentators to suggest that the SNNC (and CORE) workers "were in essence a substitute bourgeoisie in the uniforms of the proletariat." (22) Irrespective of these internal problems, the national media loved this Manichean campaign for justice, and "other than the year's Presidential campaign, it was ... the nation's top news story that summer." In this way, "by undermining the popular view of the political left and activism evident during the McCarthy era, the Summer Project subtly paved the way for the events of the later Sixties." (23)

Backtracking a little to just prior to the heated activism of the Freedom Summer, in late April 1964, SNCC took a lead role in establishing the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) -- a body whose creation was intended to be "largely symbolic" in that it afforded SNCC "another opportunity to demonstrate the willingness and desire of Mississippi's black population to participate in the state's political process." (24) Without going into the full details of the Establishment's resistance to MFDP's activities it should be noted that:

The White House let it be known that the seating of the MFDP delegation would damage the vice-presidential prospects of Hubert Humphrey. The move was probably directed at Joseph Rauh, the MFDP's chief counsel and long-time Humphrey supporter [as well as vice president of Americans for Democratic Action]. In turn, Humphrey's staff pressured Rauh to urge moderation and compromise on the MFDP delegation. Walter Reuther, Rauh's immediate superior and the President of the United Auto Workers (UAW) flew in for a bit of backstage arm twisting of his own. He threatened to pull all of the UAW's money out of Mississippi should the MFDP persist in its challenge. (25)

Such bullying evidently succeeded, and growing support for the MFDP challenge to the seating of the regular Mississippi delegation at the National Democratic Convention (held in Atlanta City) quickly "evaporated." (26) Elite pressure set in motion to counter their activism was, however, not the least of SNCC's worries, and reflecting upon the summer's work, Forman points out that these events meant that SNCC attained more power than ever before and "thereby accentuated conflicts within SNCC that ultimately aided in our disintegration." He added, "[T]hat same power also led to an intensified campaign by the Establishment to destroy SNCC." (27)

Likewise, funding continued to be a crucial but neglected issue, and "in the wake of the liberal Democrat's betrayal at Atlantic City," despite Bob Moses's recognition of "SNCC's need for an independent economic base," little was done to remedy this situation. (28) Reflecting on this problem in an interview undertaken in 1982, Moses said: "It was a weakness on our part, that we left the worries about fundraising to Jim [Forman] so the whole weight of the fundraising fell on his shoulders." (29)

Spurred by the defeat of the MFDP challenge, SNCC workers began to look beyond their own experiences for ideological insights. An unexpected turn in this search for new ideas came in the fall of 1964 when SNCC accepted the invitation of Harry Belafonte to send a delegation to Africa. [...] Although Jim Forman later concluded it was "a serious mistake" to approve the trip before resolving questions about SNCC's direction at home, the chance to tour Africa was irresistible. (30)


[ed. Next: Part III.]


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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.  Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Harvard University Press, 1981), p.39. This is not to suggest that activists engaged in voter registration were free from the ongoing threat of murder, because: "To white authorities in Mississippi, no action by blacks was 'moderate'; only total passivity and total acquiescence to all the customs and expectations of a white supremacist society were considered acceptable conduct." Wesley Hogan, Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC's Dream for a New America (University of North Carolina Press, 2007), pp.58-9.  (back)

2.  In 1944, the Southern Regional Council had superseded the Commission on Interracial Cooperation (CIC) and was "largely" funded by the Rockefeller philanthropies and the Rosenwald Fund; prior to that, the CIC, which had been established in 1919, had "benefited from substantial amounts of Rockefeller money, first channeled through the War Work Council of the YMCA and during the 1920s donated directly by the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial." August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, Black History and the Historical Profession 1915-1980 (University of Illinois Press, 1986), p.69, p.17.

Stephen Currier, the scion of a banking fortune who became a civil rights activist, and Audrey Bruce Currier, the granddaughter of Andrew W. Mellon, became major funders of the civil rights movement in 1958 when they established the Taconic Foundation. When they both died in 1967 (at age 36 and 33, respectively) they left a further $20 million to support civil rights activism. One might also add that Harold Fleming, after leaving the Southern Regional Council, had joined the newly established Potomac Institute, a body that had been created with the financial backing of the Taconic Foundation.  (back)

3.  David Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (Random House, 1988), p.162. For more on Robert Kennedy's duplicity, note that: "After first arguing with civil rights workers that the Justice Department simply did not have the statutory authority to go into court to protect them against police brutality, the Kennedy Administration omitted such a provision from its proposed Civil Rights Bill. When a subcommittee of the House inserted this authority into the bill, Attorney General Robert Kennedy went before it, in October of 1963, to argue against its inclusion, and it was removed." Howard Zinn, SNCC: The New Abolitionists (Beacon Press, 1964), p.208.

For a discussion of the role that "Southern moderates" like Governor-elect James Plemon (J.P.) Coleman (D-MS), played in designing Jim Crow's institutional ghost, see Anders Walker, The Ghost of Jim Crow: How Southern Moderates Used Brown v. Board of Education to Stall Civil Rights (Oxford University Press, 2009). For example, even prior to the Brown decision, Coleman "began to develop pupil placement, a legal plan that removed overt racial classifications from southern state law and replaced them with more neutral classifications that could be used as substitutes for race, such as academic performance and moral background." (p.13)  (back)

4.  Carson, In Struggle, p.39. Prior to this Jenkins "had also participated in the Justice Department meetings and, along with several other SNCC members, had become convinced that SNCC should develop political programs to attract financial support that would otherwise go to the older civil rights organizations." (p.39) Jenkins would go on to serve as a member of both the SNCC's coordinating committee and of Students for a Democratic Society's executive committee. (p.54)  (back)

5.  Carson, In Struggle, p.41. (Direct Quote)  (back)

6.  Zinn, SNCC, p.58.  (back)

7.  Zinn, SNCC, p.59.  (back)

8.  James Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries (Open Hand Publishing, 1985 [1972]), p.265.

"Most of the funds [for the Voter Education Project] were provided by the Taconic Foundation, the Field Foundation, and the Edgar Stern Family Fund. Their contributions, respectively, were $339,000, $225,000, and $219,000." Pat Watters and Reese Cleghorn, Climbing Jacob's Ladder: The Arrival of Negroes in Southern Politics (Harcourt, 1967), p.45.  (back)

9.  Carson, In Struggle, p.52, p.51. In 1942, one of the founders of the Highlander Center, James Dombrowski, moved from Highlander to become the general of the Southern Conference Education Fund. SCEF stalwart Anne Braden would go on to play a central role in founding the Southern Organizing Committee for Economic & Social Justice in 1975.  (back)

10.  Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries, p.272.  (back)

11.  Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries, p.292, p.293, p.436, p.448. By way of another example, Forman writes: "As the Summer of 1962 approached, SNCC faced a debt of thirteen thousand dollars and no funds from the Voter Education Project had yet come through. There was no prospect of raising money from any other source. Through the winter we had continued to exist borrowing from others to pay off the first debts." (pp.269-70)  (back)

12.  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.232-3; Carson, In Struggle, p.92; Nancy Weiss, Whitney M. Young, Jr., and the Struggle for Civil Rights (Princeton University Press, 1989), p.115.  (back)

13.  Weiss, Whitney M. Young, Jr., and the Struggle for Civil Rights, p.113. Just prior to becoming the executive director of National Urban League (in 1961) Whitney Young was selected by league board member and influential Rockefeller representative Lindsley Kimball to undertake a Rockefeller-funded sabbatical at Harvard University "as part of the plan to groom him for his new responsibilities." (p.78) Weiss notes that "looking after the Urban League had been a Rockefeller family tradition. In its earliest years, John D., Jr., had been the largest single contributor; in the 1940s his son Winthrop, a trustee, had shaped its fundraising efforts. A personal gift from Winthrop had enabled the league, in 1956, to acquire its first permanent headquarters building on East Forty-Eighth Street in New York. Not long thereafter, Winthrop had moved to Arkansas, where he would later develop a political career. In his absence, and with the league in real difficulty, the Rockefellers suggested that Kimball go on the board and see what he could do to invigorate the organization. He thought that the first priority was to make a change in its leadership." Hence Young came to power. (p.74)  (back)

14.  Carson, In Struggle, p.92.  (back)

15.  Hogan, Many Minds, One Heart, p.143, p.144.  (back)

16.  Hogan, Many Minds, One Heart, p.146. Organized to distribute funds for the Voter Education Project, COFO member organizations included the NAACP, CORE, SCLC, and SNCC. Aaron Henry, the state president of the NAACP, was named president of COFO, and Robert Moses was named their director.  (back)

17.  Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries, p.358.  (back)

18.  Hogan, Many Minds, One Heart, p.146, p.150. Also see note 50, p.355. With regard to Forman's previous encounter with Lowenstein, who had also been the former president of the National Students Association (NSA) from 1950 until 1951, Forman recalled: "Seven years had passed since I had seen him in action at the [1956] NSA conference, slickly manipulating a conservative victory, arrogantly using a black delegate for that purpose, wheeling and dealing all over the place." (p.356) Forman adds that although at the time SNCC did not realise the "full implications of Lowenstein's presence in Mississippi in 1963" they later determined that, initially as just an observer, "he represented a whole body of influential forces seeking to prevent SNCC from becoming too radical and to bring it under the control of... the liberal-labor syndrome." Forman identifies influential white members of the syndrome to have been poverty "expert" Michael Harrington, and general counsel for the UAW, Joseph Rauh. Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries, p.357.  (back)

19.  Hogan, Many Minds, One Heart, p.150. "For his part, Moses saw merit on both sides of this argument [for and against the used of northern whites in the Freedom Project]. For very practical reasons, he felt that 'the people who did the work should make the decision,' and a majority of the staff did not want the Summer Project. Yet Moses was forced to weigh this reality against the white terror that paralyzed all organizing, which risked the collapse of the whole movement through despair and resignation. Moreover, many staffers were 'already burnt out,' and SNCC had no rejuvenatory measures to offer them. While the flexibility and adhoc nature of the organization had initially been an asset, it was not foolproof. Volunteer psychiatrists, weekends in California or New York, and visits from celebrities all helped the SNCC workers continue. But long-term recuperation was not an option. As Moses said, 'We didn't have any resources; we didn't have any money.'" (p.153) In addition, "The murder of Louis Allen in January 1964 pushed Moses decisively toward supporting the Summer Project." (p.154)  (back)

20.  Doug McAdam, Freedom Summer (Oxford University Press, 1988), p.37, p.5. "For the most part, they were liberals, not radicals; reformers rather than revolutionaries." (p.5)  (back)

21.  McAdam, Freedom Summer, p.40. As an example of the type of external funding-related pressures being exerted on SNCC during preparations for the Freedom Summer, Forman recalled how: "It was Currier who first raise with me the question of SNCC's intention to use the services of the Laywers Guild in the upcoming Mississippi Summer Project -- a question which would bring the wrath of the mighty down on our heads. Currier had asked me to meet him alone one day at the Potomac Institute and there explained that he and other felt disturbed about our plan to use the Guild. I explained to him our position on civil liberties and Red-baiting, and that we were not going to change it." Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries, p.367.

On June 1, 1962, SNCC had a deficit of over $10,000, and managed to raise a further $50,000 during the remainder of that year to end with a slight surplus. In 1963, however, SNCC's budget increased to $309,000, "almost half" of which came "from institutional sources (primarily religious organizations, labor unions, and foundations)." Carson, In Struggle, p.71, p.315.  (back)

22.  Watters and Cleghorn, Climbing Jacob's Ladder, p.102. "Establishing little libraries and health centers where there were none, conducting voter registration efforts, organizing communities into civic councils, the workers of SNCC and CORE were in essence a substitute bourgeoisie in the uniforms of the proletariat. Perhaps white Mississippi can be thankful for them on that ground alone; they became a focal point for orderly action in a place where rising discontent and distress might easily have exploded." (p.102)  (back)

23.  McAdam, Freedom Summer, p.116, p.118.

An important yet oft-forgotten part of SNCC's summer freedom schools program was the creation of the Free Southern Theater (FST), which is rarely mentioned in movement historiography, even through FST's Summer Project tour was arguably "one of the most significant and successful events of the summer." "In accepting that the culture of the South needed changing, SNCC went further than other civil rights organizations dared." Amiri Baraka's work on black nationalism proved influential within the FST as it continued to develop during the 1960s, but despite FST's popularity they struggled to attract black financial support for their work which "left them in debt to white foundations, a paradoxical relationship that reflects the broader relationship between many black nationalists and money from whites." "In 1966, foundation support had been half that of the FST's own fund-raising income, but the following years saw a steady decline in the FST's precarious financial state. By 1967, foundation grants dominated the FST's income. In 1968, the Rockefeller and Ford foundations alone contributed more than half of FST's income. Both donated even larger amounts in 1969. Although [their associate director Thomas] Dent [a former public information director for NAACP] had few qualms about lambasting the Rockefeller Foundation for its patronizing middle-class attitude and its use of the FST to keep the natives quiescent, he needed its money to prolong his quest to inculcate an oppositional consciousness in the black population. Joe Street, The Culture War in the Civil Rights Movement (University Press of Florida, 2007), p.97, p.99, p.140. Street adds, that during the late 1960s FST "served as a template for the many black nationalist theater groups that emerged during this period." (p.141)  (back)

24.  McAdam, Freedom Summer, p.118.  (back)

25.  McAdam, Freedom Summer, pp.119-20.  (back)

26.  McAdam, Freedom Summer, p.120. It is worth observing that financial incentives/grants (a Guggenheim Fellowship and a grant from the National Science Foundation worth $30,000) enabled McAdam's detailed and time consuming research for his book to be undertaken in the first place. (p.viii)  (back)

27.  Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries, p.372. Writing in 1964, Zinn adds: "There are many things to criticize in SNCC. Though it has fashioned a formidable apparatus since that day when Jim Forman walked into a deserted, windowless cubby and found a month's mail strewn on the floor, it is still not scrupulously well-organized; letters may go unanswered, phone calls go unreturned, meetings start late or never or without agendas. It is so quick to act that it often does not stop and plan actions carefully to get the most value from them. It does not take enough time to work out long-range strategy. It is not groomed in the niceties of public relations, and visitors to the Atlanta office sometimes complain of a diffident reception. It exasperates its friends almost as often as it harasses its enemies." Zinn, SNCC, p.216.  (back)

28.  Hogan, Many Minds, One Heart, p.200. Here Hogan provides further details to support this point. Endnote #4 (p.374) reads: "See 'Rough Minutes of a Meeting Called by the National Council of Churches to Discuss the Mississippi Project,' 18 Sept. 1964, Mary King Papers. Moses said that these minutes, which showed the clear danger of SNCC's lack of an independent economic base, were distributed within SNCC but no one responded to the warning (interview by Carson). Paralleling this thinking, [Charles] Sherrod noted in November that 'the dollar will increasingly become hard to get.' The problem was that one could not simultaneously fight state policies and ask the state for economic support. 'That's the mistake we made in SNCC and CORE and SCLC,' he stated years later. 'An organization could not bite the hand that fed it.' Sherrod, Untitled Position Paper Prepared for Waveland Staff Meeting, November 1964, Ewen Papers; Sherrod interview. 'They're still making the same mistake,' Sherrod said of the major civil rights organizations in the 1980s."  (back)

29.  Hogan, Many Minds, One Heart, pp.220-1.  (back)

30.  Carson, In Struggle, p.134. Carson suggests that "[p]erhaps the most significant episode of their stay in Africa was an unexpected encounter in Nairobi with Malcolm X" which led to a "series of attempts by Malcolm to forge links with SNCC." (p.135) Indeed, following on this chance meeting Malcolm continued to exert a strong influence over the political development of both CORE and SNCC activists. For example: "In early February 1965, Malcolm was asked by SNCC to speak to black students and workers in Selma, Alabama." As Manning Marable observes, "Malcolm's electrifying speech gave the radical nationalist tendency within SNCC another boost." Manning Marable, Race, Reform, and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction in Black America, 1945-1990 (University Press of Mississippi, 1991 [1982]), p.90.  (back)


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Published November 15, 2010