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Voter registration

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was founded in April 1960 by young people dedicated to nonviolent, direct action tactics. Although Martin Luther King, Jr. and others had hoped that SNCC would serve as the youth wing of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the students remained fiercely independent of King and SCLC, generating their own projects and strategies. Although ideological differences eventually caused SNCC and SCLC to be at odds, the two organizations worked side by side throughout the early years of the civil rights movement.

National Council of Negro Women (NCNW)

Founded in 1935 by Mary McLeod Bethune, the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) was the first national coalition of African American women’s organizations. The most influential national women’s organization during the civil rights movement at the time, the NCNW represented 850,000 members, including Martin Luther King’s wife, Coretta Scott King. In 1957 King addressed the NCNW at their annual convention, telling the women, “I have long admired this organization, its great work, and its noble purposes” (King, 9 November 1957).

Selma to Montgomery March

On 25 March 1965, Martin Luther King led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators to the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, after a 5-day, 54-mile march from Selma, Alabama, where local African Americans, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) had been campaigning for voting rights. King told the assembled crowd: “There never was a moment in American history more honorable and more inspiring than the pilgrimage of clergymen and laymen of every race and faith pouring into Selma to face danger at the side of its embattled Negroes” (King, “Address at the Conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March,” 121).

Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP)

In early 1964, as part of Freedom Summer, Mississippi civil rights activists affiliated with the Council of Federated Organizations in Mississippi launched the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). Claiming status as “the only democratically constituted body of Mississippi citizens,” they appealed to the credentials committee of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) of 1964 to recognize their party’s delegation in place of the all-white Democratic Party delegation from Mississippi (Victoria Gray, July 1964). In his statement before the credentials committee, Martin Luther King, Jr., expressed support for the MFDP delegates, calling them “the true heirs of the tradition of Jefferson and Hamilton” (King, 22 August 1964).

Roosevelt, (Anna) Eleanor

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was an advocate for civil rights and an ardent supporter of Martin Luther King from his Montgomery bus boycott days until her death six years later. King called Mrs. Roosevelt “perhaps the greatest woman [of] our time,” praising “the courage she displayed in taking sides on matters considered controversial” and her “unswerving dedication to high principle and purpose” (King, “Epitaph for Mrs. FDR”).

Hamer, Fannie Lou

When Fannie Lou Hamer testified before the credentials committee of the 1964 Democratic National Convention, she told the world about the torture and abuse she experienced in her attempt to register to vote. Martin Luther King wrote that her “testimony educated a nation and brought the political powers to their knees in repentance, for the convention voted never again to seat a delegation that was racially segregated” (King, “Something Happening in Mississippi”).

Recommendations to SCLC Committee on Future Program

King offers several proposals to offset criticisms that SCLC’s voter registration efforts had faltered. He recommends publicizing the group’s recent achievements and hiring Bayard Rustin “with the understanding that if any undue criticism” arose “that would prove embarrassing to him or the organization, he would quietly resign.”

To Theodore E. Brown

In this letter to Ted Brown, the assistant director of the AFL-CIO's civil rights department, King criticizes an article in Jet that described SCLC’s “clergy-backed Dixie vote campaign” as having made little progress, while trumpeting the NAACP’s efforts.1 King insists that the information is largely false and suggests it is part of an effort to divide SCLC and the NAACP: “There is nothing that arouses my ire more than those individuals in distant cities who will use the power of their pens to cr


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