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Student movements

Steele, Charles Kenzie

The first vice president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Reverend C. K. Steele shared Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, vision of social equality through nonviolent means. As president of the Inter-Civic Council, Steele led a successful bus boycott in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1956, based on the example set by the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). Although not widely noted, the efforts of the Inter-Civic Council offered hope to those engaged in what Steele described as “the pain and the promise” of the civil rights movement (Steele, 27 September 1978). He later stated: “Where there is any power … as strong [and] as eternal as love using nonviolence, the promise will be fulfilled” (Steele, 27 September 1978).

Smith, Kelly Miller

As a social gospel minister, Kelly Miller Smith believed in using his pastorate to promote activism. Smith participated in the founding meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, and co-founded the Nashville Christian Leadership Council (NCLC) a year later. In a 1961 telegram Smith described Martin Luther King as the “embodiment of the message you bear” (Smith, 19 December 1961).

Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) Project

On 15 June 1965 Martin Luther King addressed the opening orientation session for student volunteers in Atlanta’s Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) Project of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He told the assembled volunteers: “This generation of students is found where history is being made” (King, 15 June 1965).

Vivian, Cordy Tindell

As a minister, educator, and community organizer, C. T. Vivian has been a tenacious advocate for civil rights since the 1940s. After joining the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in the early 1960s, he became the Director of Affiliates and participated in numerous protests. Known for his sharp tongue and unflinching courage, Vivian recalled what movement veterans felt after serving time in jail: “They had triumphed, that they had achieved, that they were now ready, they could go back home, they could be a witness to a new understanding. Nonviolence was proven in that respect” (Hampton and Fayer, 96).

Patterson, John Malcolm

Patterson’s gubernatorial term in Alabama was a turbulent one due to his enforcement of state-sponsored segregation and the increase of civil rights activity in Alabama. During his tenure as governor the student sit-in movement was taking hold, and Martin Luther King was indicted for perjury for his 1956 and 1958 Alabama income tax returns (see State of Alabama v. M. L. King, Jr.). King felt that the charges against him were an “attempt on the part of the state of Alabama to harass me for the role that I have played in the civil rights struggle” (Papers 5:371).


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