Southern Christian Leadership Conference

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is an African-American civil rights organization. SCLC, which is closely associated with its first president, Martin Luther King Jr., had a large role in the American civil rights movement.[1]

Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Southern Christian Leadership Conference logo
FormationJanuary 10, 1957
PurposeCivil Rights
HeadquartersAtlanta, Georgia
Region served
United States
National President/CEO
Charles Steele Jr.
Affiliations17 affiliates; 57 chapters


On January 10, 1957, following the Montgomery Bus Boycott victory and consultations with Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, and others, Martin Luther King Jr. invited about 60 black ministers and leaders to Ebenezer Church in Atlanta. Prior to this, Rustin, in New York City, conceived the idea of initiating such an effort and first sought C. K. Steele to make the call and take the lead role. Steele declined, but told Rustin he would be glad to work right beside him if he sought King in Montgomery, for the role. Their goal was to form an organization to coordinate and support nonviolent direct action as a method of desegregating bus systems across the South. In addition to King, Rustin, Baker, and Steele, Fred Shuttlesworth of Birmingham, Joseph Lowery of Mobile, and Ralph Abernathy of Montgomery, all played key roles in this meeting.[2]

On February 15, a follow-up meeting was held in New Orleans. Out of these two meetings came a new organization with King as its president. Initially called the "Negro Leaders Conference on Nonviolent Integration," then "Southern Negro Leaders Conference," the group eventually chose "Southern Christian Leadership Conference" (SCLC) as its name, and expanded its focus beyond buses to ending all forms of segregation.[3] A small office was established in the Prince Hall Masonic Temple Building on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta[4] with Ella Baker as SCLC's first—and for a long time only—staff member.[5]

SCLC was governed by an elected Board, and established as an organization of affiliates, most of which were either individual churches or community organizations such as the Montgomery Improvement Association and the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR). This organizational form differed from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) who recruited individuals and formed them into local chapters.

The organization also drew inspiration from the crusades of evangelist Billy Graham, who befriended King after he appeared at a Graham crusade in New York City in 1957. Despite tactical differences, which arose from Graham's willingness to continue affiliating himself with segregationists, the SCLC and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association had similar ambitions and Graham would privately advise the SCLC.[6]

During its early years, SCLC struggled to gain footholds in black churches and communities across the South. Social activism in favor of racial equality faced fierce repression from police, White Citizens' Council and the Ku Klux Klan. Only a few churches had the courage to defy the white-dominated status-quo by affiliating with SCLC, and those that did risked economic retaliation against pastors and other church leaders, arson, and bombings.

SCLC's advocacy of boycotts and other forms of nonviolent protest was controversial among both whites and blacks. Many black community leaders believed that segregation should be challenged in the courts and that direct action excited white resistance, hostility, and violence. Traditionally, leadership in black communities came from the educated elite—ministers, professionals, teachers, etc.—who spoke for and on behalf of the laborers, maids, farm-hands, and working poor who made up the bulk of the black population. Many of these traditional leaders were uneasy at involving ordinary blacks in mass activity such as boycotts and marches.

SCLC's belief that churches should be involved in political activism against social ills was also deeply controversial. Many ministers and religious leaders—both black and white—thought that the role of the church was to focus on the spiritual needs of the congregation and perform charitable works to aid the needy. To some of them, the social-political activity of King and SCLC amounted to dangerous radicalism which they strongly opposed.

SCLC and King were also sometimes criticized for lack of militancy by younger activists in groups such as Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and CORE who were participating in sit-ins and Freedom Rides.

Citizenship Schools

Originally started in 1954 by Esau Jenkins and Septima Clark on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia, the Citizenship Schools focused on teaching adults to read so they could pass the voter-registration literacy tests, fill out driver's license exams, use mail-order forms, and open checking accounts. Under the auspices of the Highlander Folk School (now Highlander Research and Education Center) the program was expanded across the South. The Johns Island Citizenship School was housed at The Progressive Club, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.[7][8]

When the state of Tennessee revoked Highlander's charter and confiscated its land and property in 1961, SCLC rescued the citizenship school program and added Septima Clark, Bernice Robinson, and Andrew Young to its staff. Under the innocuous cover of adult-literacy classes, the schools secretly taught democracy and civil rights, community leadership and organizing, practical politicals, and the strategies and tactics of resistance and struggle, and in so doing built the human foundations of the mass community struggles to come.

Eventually, close to 69,000 teachers, most of them unpaid volunteers and many with little formal education, taught Citizenship Schools throughout the South.[9] Many of the Civil Rights Movement's adult leaders such as Fannie Lou Hamer and Victoria Gray, and hundreds of other local leaders in black communities across the South attended and taught citizenship schools.[10]

Albany Movement

In 1961 and 1962, SCLC joined SNCC in the Albany Movement, a broad protest against segregation in Albany, Georgia. It is generally considered the organization's first major nonviolent campaign. At the time, it was considered by many to be unsuccessful: despite large demonstrations and many arrests, few changes were won, and the protests drew little national attention. Yet, despite the lack of immediate gains, much of the success of the subsequent Birmingham Campaign can be attributed to lessons learned in Albany.[11]

Birmingham campaign

By contrast, the 1963 SCLC campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, was an unqualified success. The campaign focused on a single goal—the desegregation of Birmingham's downtown merchants—rather than total desegregation, as in Albany. The brutal response of local police, led by Public Safety Commissioner "Bull" Connor, stood in stark contrast to the nonviolent civil disobedience of the activists.

After his arrest in April, King wrote the "Letter from Birmingham Jail" in response to a group of clergy who had criticized the Birmingham campaign, writing that it was "directed and led in part by outsiders" and that the demonstrations were "unwise and untimely."[12] In his letter, King explained that, as president of SCLC, he had been asked to come to Birmingham by the local members:

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in." I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. ... Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here I am here because I have organizational ties here.[13]

King also addressed the question of "timeliness":

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. ... Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied." We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights.[13]

The most dramatic moments of the Birmingham campaign came on May 2, when, under the direction and leadership of James Bevel, who would soon officially become SCLC's Director of Direct Action and Director of Nonviolent Education, more than 1,000 Black children left school to join the demonstrations; hundreds were arrested. The following day, 2,500 more students joined and were met by Bull Connor with police dogs and high-pressure fire hoses. That evening, television news programs reported to the nation and the world scenes of fire hoses knocking down schoolchildren and dogs attacking individual demonstrators. Public outrage led the Kennedy administration to intervene more forcefully and a settlement was announced on May 10, under which the downtown businesses would desegregate and eliminate discriminatory hiring practices, and the city would release the jailed protesters.

March on Washington

March on washington Aug 28 1963
Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington

After the Birmingham Campaign, SCLC called for massive protests in Washington, DC, to push for new civil rights legislation that would outlaw segregation nationwide. A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin issued similar calls for a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. On July 2, 1963, King, Randolph, and Rustin met with James Farmer Jr. of the Congress of Racial Equality, John Lewis of SNCC, Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, and Whitney Young of the Urban League to plan a united march on August 28.

The media and political establishment viewed the march with great fear and trepidation over the possibility that protesters would run riot in the streets of the capital. But despite their fears, the March on Washington was a huge success, with no violence, and an estimated number of participants ranging from 200,000 to 300,000. It was also a logistical triumph—more than 2,000 buses, 21 special trains, 10 chartered aircraft, and uncounted autos converged on the city in the morning and departed without difficulty by nightfall.

The crowning moment of the march was King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech in which he articulated the hopes and aspirations of the Civil Rights Movement and rooted it in two cherished gospels—the Old Testament and the unfulfilled promise of the American creed.[14]

St. Augustine protests

When civil rights activists protesting segregation in St. Augustine, Florida were met with arrests and Ku Klux Klan violence, the local SCLC affiliate appealed to King for assistance in the spring of 1964. SCLC sent staff to help organize and lead demonstrations and mobilized support for St. Augustine in the North. Hundreds were arrested on sit-ins and marches opposing segregation, so many that the jails were filled and the overflow prisoners had to be held in outdoor stockades. Among the northern supporters who endured arrest and incarceration were Mrs. Malcolm Peabody, the mother of the governor of Massachusetts and Mrs. John Burgess, wife of the Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts.[15]

Nightly marches to the Old Slave Market were attacked by white mobs, and when blacks attempted to integrate "white-only" beaches they were assaulted by police who beat them with clubs. On June 11, King and other SCLC leaders were arrested for trying to lunch at the Monson Motel restaurant, and when an integrated group of young protesters tried to use the motel swimming pool the owner poured acid into the water. TV and newspaper stories of the struggle for justice in St. Augustine helped build public support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964[16] that was then being debated in Congress.[17]

Selma Voting Rights Movement and the march to Montgomery

When voter registration and civil rights activity in Selma, Alabama were blocked by an illegal injunction,[18] the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL) asked SCLC for assistance. King, SCLC, and DCVL chose Selma as the site for a major campaign around voting rights that would demand national voting rights legislation in the same way that the Birmingham and St. Augustine campaigns won passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[16][19] In cooperation with SNCC who had been organizing in Selma since early 1963, the Voting Rights Campaign commenced with a rally in Brown Chapel on January 2, 1965 in defiance of the injunction. SCLC and SNCC organizers recruited and trained blacks to attempt to register to vote at the courthouse, where many of them were abused and arrested by Dallas County Sheriff Jim Clark — a staunch segregationist. Black voter applicants were subjected to economic retaliation by the White Citizens' Council, and threatened with physical violence by the Ku Klux Klan. Officials used the discriminatory literacy test[20] to keep blacks off the voter rolls.

Nonviolent mass marches demanded the right to vote and the jails filled up with arrested protesters, many of them students. On February 1, King and Abernathy were arrested. Voter registration efforts and protest marches spread to the surrounding Black Belt counties — Perry, Wilcox, Marengo, Greene, and Hale. On February 18, an Alabama State Trooper shot and killed Jimmie Lee Jackson during a voting rights protest in Marion, county seat of Perry County. In response, James Bevel, who was directing SCLC's Selma actions, called for a march from Selma to Montgomery, and on March 7 close to 600 protesters attempted the march to present their grievances to Governor Wallace. Led by Reverend Hosea Williams of SCLC and John Lewis of SNCC, the marchers were attacked by State Troopers, deputy sheriffs, and mounted possemen who used tear-gas, horses, clubs, and bull whips to drive them back to Brown Chapel. News coverage of this brutal assault on nonviolent demonstrators protesting for the right to vote — which became known as "Bloody Sunday" — horrified the nation.[21]

King, Bevel, Diane Nash and others called on clergy and people of conscience to support the black citizens of Selma. Thousands of religious leaders and ordinary Americans came to demand voting rights for all. One of them was James Reeb, a white Unitarian Universalist minister, who was savagely beaten to death on the street by Klansmen who severely injured two other ministers in the same attack.

After more protests, arrests, and legal maneuvering, Federal Judge Frank M. Johnson ordered Alabama to allow the march to Montgomery. It began on March 21 and arrived in Montgomery on the 24th. On the 25th, an estimated 25,000[22] protesters marched to the steps of the Alabama capitol in support of voting rights where King spoke.[23] Within five months, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson responded to the enormous public pressure generated by the Selma Voting Rights Movement by enacting into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Grenada Freedom Movement

When the Meredith Mississippi March Against Fear passed through Grenada, Mississippi on June 15, 1966, it sparked months of civil rights activity on the part of Grenada blacks. They formed the Grenada County Freedom Movement (GCFM) as an SCLC affiliate, and within days 1,300 blacks registered to vote.[24]

Though the Civil Rights Act of 1964[16] had outlawed segregation of public facilities, the law had not been applied in Grenada which still maintained rigid segregation. After black students were arrested for trying to sit downstairs in the "white" section of the movie theater, SCLC and the GCFM demanded that all forms of segregation be eliminated, and called for a boycott of white merchants. Over the summer, the number of protests increased and many demonstrators and SCLC organizers were arrested as police enforced the old Jim Crow social order. In July and August, large mobs of white segregationists mobilized by the KKK violently attacked nonviolent marchers and news reporters with rocks, bottles, baseball bats and steel pipes.

When the new school year began in September, SCLC and the GCFM encouraged more than 450 black students to register at the formerly white schools under a court desegregation order. This was by far the largest school integration attempt in Mississippi since the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954. The all-white school board resisted fiercely, whites threatened black parents with economic retaliation if they did not withdraw their children, and by the first day of school the number of black children registered in the white schools had dropped to approximately 250. On the first day of class, September 12, a furious white mob organized by the Klan attacked the black children and their parents with clubs, chains, whips, and pipes as they walked to school, injuring many and hospitalizing several with broken bones. Police and Mississippi State Troopers made no effort to halt or deter the mob violence.[25]

Over the following days, white mobs continued to attack the black children until public pressure and a Federal court order finally forced Mississippi lawmen to intervene. By the end of the first week, many black parents had withdrawn their children from the white schools out of fear for their safety, but approximately 150 black students continued to attend, still the largest school integration in state history at that point in time.

Inside the schools, blacks were harassed by white teachers, threatened and attacked by white students, and many blacks were expelled on flimsy pretexts by school officials. By mid-October, the number of blacks attending the white schools had dropped to roughly 70. When school officials refused to meet with a delegation of black parents, black students began boycotting both the white and black schools in protest. Many children, parents, GCFM activists, and SCLC organizers were arrested for protesting the school situation. By the end of October, almost all of the 2600 black students in Grenada County were boycotting school. The boycott was not ended until early November when SCLC attorneys won a Federal court order that the school system treat everyone equal regardless of race and meet with black parents.

Jackson conference

In 1966, Allen Johnson hosted the Tenth Annual Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the Masonic Temple in Jackson, Mississippi.[26] The theme of the conference was human rights - the continuing struggle.[26] Those in attendance, among others, included: Edward Kennedy, James Bevel, Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy, Curtis W. Harris, Walter E. Fauntroy, C. T. Vivian, Andrew Young, The Freedom Singers, Charles Evers, Fred Shuttlesworth, Cleveland Robinson, Randolph Blackwell, Annie Bell Robinson Devine, Charles Kenzie Steele, Alfred Daniel Williams King, Benjamin Hooks, Aaron Henry and Bayard Rustin.[26]

Poor People's Campaign


In August 1967, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) instructed its program "COINTELPRO" to "neutralize" what the FBI called "black nationalist hate groups" and other dissident groups.[27] The initial targets included Martin Luther King Jr. and others associated with the SCLC.[28]

After the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, leadership was transferred to Ralph Abernathy, who presided until 1977. Abernathy was replaced by Joseph Lowery who was SCLC president until 1997. In 1997, MLK’s son, Martin Luther King III, became the president of SCLC. In 2004, for less than a year, it was Fred Shuttlesworth. After him, the president was Charles Steele Jr., and in 2009, Howard W. Creecy Jr. Next were Isaac Newton Farris Jr. and current president C. T. Vivian, who took office in 2012 and remains today.

1997 to present

In 1997, Martin Luther King III was unanimously elected to head the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, replacing Joseph Lowery. Under King's leadership, the SCLC held hearings on police brutality, organized a rally for the 37th anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech and launched a successful campaign to change the Georgia state flag, which previously featured a large Confederate cross.[29]

Within only a few months of taking the position, however, King was being criticized by the Conference board for alleged inactivity. He was accused of failing to answer correspondence from the board and take up issues important to the organization. The board also felt he failed to demonstrate against national issues the SCLC previously would have protested, like the disenfranchisement of black voters in the Florida election recount or time limits on welfare recipients implemented by then-President Bill Clinton.[30] King was further criticized for failing to join the battle against AIDS, allegedly because he feels uncomfortable talking about condoms.[29] He also hired Lamell J. McMorris, an executive director who, according to The New York Times, "rubbed board members the wrong way."[30]

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference suspended King from the presidency in June 2001, concerned that he was letting the organization drift into inaction. In a June 25 letter to King, the group's national chairman at the time, Claud Young, wrote, "You have consistently been insubordinate and displayed inappropriate, obstinate behavior in the (negligent) carrying out of your duties as president of SCLC."[30] King was reinstated only one week later after promising to take a more active role. Young said of the suspension, "I felt we had to use a two-by-four to get his attention. Well, it got his attention all right."[30]

After he was reinstated, King prepared a four-year plan outlining a stronger direction for the organization, agreeing to dismiss McMorris and announcing plans to present a strong challenge to the George W. Bush administration in an August convention in Montgomery, Alabama.[30] He also planned to concentrate on racial profiling, prisoners' rights, and closing the digital divide between whites and blacks.[29] However, King also suggested in a statement that the group needed a different approach than it had used in the past, stating, "We must not allow our lust for 'temporal gratification' to blind us from making difficult decisions to effect future generations."[30]

Martin Luther King III resigned in 2004, upon which Fred Shuttlesworth was elected to replace him. Shuttlesworth resigned the same year that he was appointed, complaining that "deceit, mistrust, and a lack of spiritual discipline and truth have eaten at the core of this once-hallowed organization".[31] He was replaced by Charles Steele Jr. who served until October 2009.

On October 30, 2009, Elder Bernice King, King's youngest child, was elected SCLC's new president, with James Bush III taking office in February 2010 as Acting President/CEO until Bernice King took office. However, on January 21, 2011, fifteen months after her election, Bernice King declined the position of president. In a written statement, she said that her decision came "after numerous attempts to connect with the official board leaders on how to move forward under my leadership, unfortunately, our visions did not align."[32]


The best-known member of the SCLC was Martin Luther King Jr., who was president and chaired the organization until he was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Other prominent members of the organization have included Joseph Lowery, Ralph Abernathy, Ella Baker, James Bevel, Diane Nash, Dorothy Cotton, James Orange, C. O. Simpkins Sr, Charles Kenzie Steele, C. T. Vivian, Fred Shuttlesworth, Andrew Young, Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson, Walter E. Fauntroy, Claud Young, Septima Clark, Martin Luther King III, Curtis W. Harris, Maya Angelou, and Golden Frinks.

 • 1957–68 Martin Luther King Jr.
 • 1968–77 Ralph Abernathy
 • 1977–97 Joseph Lowery
 • 1997–2004 Martin Luther King III
 • 2004 Fred Shuttlesworth
 • 2004–09 Charles Steele Jr.
 • 2009–11 Howard W. Creecy Jr.
 • 2012–present Charles Steele Jr.

Relationships with other organizations

Because of its dedication to nonviolence, nonviolent direct-action protests, civil disobedience, and mobilizing mass participation in boycotts and marches, SCLC was considered more "radical" than the older NAACP, which favored lawsuits, legislative lobbying, and education campaigns conducted by professionals, and usually opposed civil disobedience. At the same time, it was generally considered less radical than Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) or the youth-led Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

To a certain extent during the period 1960–1964, SCLC had a mentoring relationship with SNCC before SNCC began moving away from nonviolence and integration in the late 1960s. Over time, SCLC and SNCC took different strategic paths, with SCLC focusing on large-scale campaigns such as Birmingham and Selma to win national legislation, and SNCC focusing on community-organizing to build political power on the local level. In many communities, there was tension between SCLC and SNCC because SCLC's base was the minister-led Black churches, and SNCC was trying to build rival community organizations led by the poor.[33] SCLC also had its own youth volunteer initiative, the SCOPE Project (Summer Community Organization on Political Education), which placed about 500 young people, mostly white students from nearly 100 colleges and universities, who registered about 49,000 voters in 120 counties in 6 southern states in 1965–66.[34]

In August 1979, the head of the SCLC, Joseph Lowery, met with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and endorsed Palestinian self-determination and urged the PLO to "consider" recognizing Israel's right to exist.[35]


  1. ^ King Research & Education Institute at Stanford Univ. "Southern Christian Leadership Conference".
  2. ^ Branch, Taylor (1988). Parting the Waters. Simon & Schuster.
  3. ^ "Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement -- History & Timeline, 1957". Retrieved April 14, 2017.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Garrow, David (1986). Bearing the Cross. Morrow.
  6. ^ Miller, Steven P. (2009). Billy Graham and the Rise of the Republican South. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-8122-4151-8. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  7. ^ National Park Service (July 9, 2010). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  8. ^ "The Progressive Club, Charleston County (3377 River Rd., Johns Island)". National Register Properties in South Carolina. South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  9. ^ Payne, Charles (1995). I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle. University of California Press.
  10. ^ Citizenship Schools ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  11. ^ Albany GA, Movement ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  12. ^ C.C.J. Carpenter; et al. (April 12, 1963). "Statement by Alabama Clergymen" (PDF). Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project. Archived from the original (.PDF) on February 16, 2008. Retrieved February 12, 2008.
  13. ^ a b Martin Luther King, Jr. (April 16, 1963). "Letter from Birmingham Jail" (.PDF). Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project. Retrieved February 12, 2008.
  14. ^ March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  15. ^ St. Augustine Movement King Research and Education Institute (Stanford Univ)
  16. ^ a b c Civil Rights Act of 1964
  17. ^ St. Augustine Movement 1963–1964 ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  18. ^ The Selma Injunction ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  19. ^ SCLC's "Alabama Project" ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  20. ^ Are You "Qualified" to Vote? The Alabama "Literacy Test" ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  21. ^ "Selma to Montgomery March". King Research & Education Institute at Stanford University. Archived from the original on January 22, 2009.
  22. ^ Garrow, David (1986). Bearing the Cross. Morrow. ISBN 0-688-04794-7.
  23. ^ King Research & Education Institute at Stanford University. "Our God Is Marching On!".
  24. ^ Grenada Mississippi, 1966 Chronology of a Movement
  25. ^ "Negroes Beaten in Grenada School Integration" (PDF). New York Times. University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved September 10, 2013.
  26. ^ a b c "Program from the SCLC's Tenth Annual Convention". The King Center. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  27. ^ "COINTELPRO" A Huey P. Newton Story, Public Broadcasting System website.
  28. ^ "COINTELPRO". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  29. ^ a b c Gettleman, Jeffrey. "M.L. King III: Father's path hard to follow." Los Angeles Times, August 5, 2001. Retrieved on September 14, 2008.
  30. ^ a b c d e f Firestone, David. "A civil rights group suspends, then reinstates, its president." The New York Times, July 26, 2001. Retrieved on August 28, 2008.
  31. ^ "President of Beleaguered Civil Rights Group Resigns". Washington Post. November 12, 2004. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  32. ^ "Bernice King Declines SCLC Presidency". Atlanta Journal Constitution. January 21, 2011. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  33. ^ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  34. ^ Stephen G. N. Tuck (2001). Beyond Atlanta: The Struggle for Racial Equality in Georgia, 1940-1980. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 978-0-8203-2528-6.
  35. ^ Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 273. ISBN 0-465-04195-7.


  • Aguiar, Marian; Gates, Henry Louis (1999). "Southern Christian Leadership Conference". Africana: the encyclopedia of the African and African American experience. New York: Basic Civitas Books. ISBN 0-465-00071-1.
  • Cooksey, Elizabeth B. (December 23, 2004). "Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)". The new Georgia encyclopedia. Athens, GA: Georgia Humanities Council. OCLC 54400935. Retrieved February 12, 2008.
  • Fairclough, Adam. "The Preachers and the People: The Origins and Early Years of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 1955-1959." Journal of Southern History (1986): 403-440. in JSTOR
  • Fairclough, Adam. To Redeem the Soul of America: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King, Jr. (University of Georgia Press, 2001)
  • Garrow, David. Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1986); Pulitzer Prize
  • Marable, Manning; Mullings, Leith (2002). Freedom: A Photographic History of the African American Struggle. London: Phaidon. ISBN 0-7148-4270-2.
  • Peake, Thomas R. Keeping the dream alive: A history of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from King to the nineteen-eighties (P. Lang, 1987)
  • Williams, Juan (1987). Eyes on The Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954–1965. New York: Viking. ISBN 0-670-81412-1.

External links

Adam Fairclough

Adam Fairclough (born 1952) is a British historian of the United States. He is the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Professor of American History at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. Between 2008 and 2014, he served as the chair of the Netherlands American Studies Association. He has written on a number of subjects, and specializes in the Civil Rights Movement and the period of Reconstruction. His best known work is To Redeem the Soul of America: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King, Jr. Fairclough is a qualified expert in the field of American History, but specializes in the Civil Rights Movement.

Albany Movement

The Albany Movement was a desegregation and voter's rights coalition formed in

Albany, Georgia, in November of 1961. Local black leaders and ministers, as well as members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) founded the group . In December 1961, at the request of some senior leaders of The Albany Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) became involved in assisting the Albany group with organizing protests and demonstrations meant to draw attention to the continued and often brutally enforced racial segregation practices in Southwest Georgia. However, many leaders in SNCC were fundamentally opposed to King and the SCLC's involvement, as they felt a more democratic grassroots approach aimed at long-term solutions was preferable for the area than King's tendency towards short-term, authoritatively run organizing .

Although the Albany Movement is deemed by some as a failure due to its unsuccessful attempt at desegregating public spaces in Southwest Georgia, those most directly involved in the Movement tend to disagree, citing it as a beneficial lesson in strategy and tactics for the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement and a key component to the Movement's future successes in desegregation and policy changes in other areas of the Deep South .

Bearing the Cross

Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is a 1986 book by David J. Garrow about Martin Luther King Jr., the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the American Civil Rights Movement. The book won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.

Bearing the Cross was published by William Morrow and Company, with a HarperCollins paperback in 2004.

Bernard Lafayette

Bernard Lafayette (or LaFayette), Jr. (born July 29, 1940) is a longtime civil rights activist and organizer, who was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He played a leading role in early organizing of the Selma Voting Rights Movement; was a member of the Nashville Student Movement; and worked closely throughout the 1960s movements with groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the American Friends Service Committee.

Bernard Lee (activist)

Bernard Lee (October 2, 1935 – February 10, 1991) was an activist and member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the Civil Rights Movement. He was key associate of Martin Luther King Jr.

David Garrow

David J. Garrow (born May 11, 1953 in New Bedford, Massachusetts) is an American historian and author of the book Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1986), which won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. He also wrote Liberty and Sexuality (1994), a history of the legal struggles over reproductive rights in the U.S. prior to the Roe v. Wade decision, Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama (2017), and other works.Garrow writes frequently on the history of the United States Supreme Court and the history of the Civil Rights Movement, and regularly contributes articles on these subjects to non-academic publications including The New York Times, The Nation, The Financial Times, and The New Republic.

Garrow was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He graduated magna cum laude from Wesleyan University in 1975 before receiving his Ph.D. from Duke University in 1981.Garrow served as a senior adviser for Eyes on the Prize, the award-winning PBS television history of the Civil Rights Movement covering the years 1954–1965. He has taught at Duke University (Instructor of History; 1978–1979), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Assistant Professor of History; 1980–1984), the City College of New York and the CUNY Graduate Center (Associate and full Professor of History; 1984–1991), The Cooper Union (Visiting Distinguished Professor of History; 1992–1993), the College of William and Mary (James Pinckney Harrison Visiting Professor of History; 1994–1995), American University (Distinguished Historian in Residence; 1995–1996) and the Emory University School of Law (Presidential Distinguished Professor; 1997–2005). From 2005 to 2011, Garrow was a senior research fellow at Homerton College, Cambridge. From 2011 until 2018 he served as Professor of Law and History and John E. Murray Faculty Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.Garrow is also a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Dorothy Cotton

Dorothy Cotton (January 5, 1930 – June 10, 2018) was an American civil rights activist, who was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and a member of the inner-circle of one of its main organizations, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). As the SCLC's Educational Director, she was arguably the highest ranked female member of the organization.

Dorothy Tillman

Dorothy Jean Tillman (née Wright; May 12, 1947) is an American politician, civil rights activist and former Chicago, Illinois alderman. Tillman served as the alderman of the city's 3rd Ward (map) from 1985 until 2007. A member of the Democratic Party, representing part of the city's South Side in the Chicago City Council. As an Alderman, Tillman was a strong advocate of reparations for slavery. In April 2007, Tillman was defeated in a runoff election by challenger Pat Dowell. Tillman defeated Dowell in 2003. Prior to her career as an alderman, Tillman was active in the Civil Rights Movement, working for Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) as an activist. Tillman was known for wearing large hats and has cultivated this image as her trademark [3]

Fred Shuttlesworth

Frederick Lee "Fred" Shuttlesworth (born Fred Lee Robinson, March 18, 1922 – October 5, 2011) was a U.S. civil rights activist who led the fight against segregation and other forms of racism as a minister in Birmingham, Alabama. He was a co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, initiated and was instrumental in the 1963 Birmingham Campaign, and continued to work against racism and for alleviation of the problems of the homeless in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he took up a pastorate in 1961. He returned to Birmingham after his retirement in 2007. He helped Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement.

The Birmingham–Shuttlesworth International Airport was named in his honor in 2008.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award is bestowed annually in his name.

Frederick D. Reese

Frederick Douglas Reese, or F. D. Reese (November 28, 1929 – April 5, 2018), was an American civil rights activist, educator and minister from Selma, Alabama. Known as a member of Selma's "Courageous Eight", Reese was the president of the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL) when it invited the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King Jr. to Selma to amplify the city's local voting rights campaign. This campaign eventually gave birth to the Selma to Montgomery marches, which later led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Reese was also president of the Selma Teachers Association, and in January 1965 he mobilized Selma's teachers to march as a group for their right to vote.Reese retired from teaching and from February 2015 and until his death in April 2018, he was active as a minister at Selma's Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church.

Golden Frinks

Golden Asro Frinks (August 15, 1920 – July 19, 2004) was an American civil rights activist and a Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) field secretary who represented the New Bern, North Carolina SCLC chapter. He is best known as a principal civil rights organizer in North Carolina during the 1960s which landed him a reputation as "The Great Agitator", having been jailed eighty-seven times during his lifetime.

Frinks was also a United States Army veteran who fought in World War II and worked at the U.S. naval base in Norfolk, Virginia. After his military career, he began promoting equality for African Americans through organized demonstrations. Frinks' involvement in the Civil Rights Movement brought early civil rights victories to North Carolina, and his willingness to engage in nonviolent, direct action served as a catalyst for civil rights movements in Edenton and nearby towns.

After becoming a field secretary of the SCLC, Frinks built a close relationship with Martin Luther King Jr. and often worked with the civil rights leader in organizing desegregation movements until King's death in 1968. Frinks' work as a field secretary and his direct actions against the Jim Crow Laws began a new era for the civil rights movement in North Carolina and the desegregation of the South.

Jackson Advocate

Jackson Advocate is an African-American weekly newspaper in Jackson, Mississippi, founded in 1938 by Percy Greene. Greene, a veteran of World War I and a Civil Rights leader in the 1940s and 1950s, was determined to make a contribution to the struggle of African-American people in the South during a time when they were severely oppressed by legal segregation and Jim Crow laws. In 1940 Greene and 30 other publishers formed a consortium of African-American newspapers to bring relevant information to black readers in the USA. That association led to the Negro Newspaper Publishers Association, which promoted coverage of injustices against and accomplishments by African Americans. In 1978, Charles Tisdale became the owner and publisher of the Jackson Advocate, positions which he held until his death aged 80 in 2007.The paper has received numerous awards and citations in its 68 years of service in reporting news and events in the African-American community, including the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus Award for Excellence, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Journalism Award, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce Newspaper of the Year. In 1988 Newsday magazine referred to the Advocate as a "national treasure".

James Orange

James Edward Orange (October 29, 1942 – February 16, 2008) was a pastor and a leading civil rights activist in the Civil Rights Movement in America. He was assistant to Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. Orange joined the civil rights marches led by King and Ralph Abernathy in Atlanta in 1963. Later he became a project coordinator for Southern Christian Leadership Conference, drawing young people into the movement.

Martin Luther King (disambiguation)

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) was a minister and Civil Rights activist.

Martin Luther King may also refer to:

Martin Luther King Sr. (1899–1984), Baptist minister and father of Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King III (born 1957), son of Martin Luther King Jr. and a former head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Martin Luther King, Jr. (Wilson), a 1986 public artwork by American sculptor John Wilson

Martin Luther King III

Martin Luther King III (born October 23, 1957) is an American human rights advocate and community activist. As the oldest son and oldest living child of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, King served as the 4th President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1997 to 2004.

Ralph Abernathy

Ralph David Abernathy Sr. (March 11, 1926 – April 17, 1990) was an American civil rights activist and Christian minister. As a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, he was a close friend and mentor of Martin Luther King Jr. He collaborated with King to create the Montgomery Improvement Association which led to the Montgomery bus boycott. He also co-founded and was an executive board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He became president of the SCLC following the assassination of King in 1968, where he led the Poor People's Campaign in Washington, D.C. among other marches and demonstrations for disenfranchised Americans. He also served as an advisory committee member of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE).

In 1971, Abernathy addressed the United Nations about world peace. He also assisted in brokering a deal between the FBI and Indian protestors during the Wounded Knee incident of 1973. He retired from his position as President of the SCLC in 1977 and became president emeritus. That year he unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives for the 5th district of Georgia. He later founded the Foundation for Economic Enterprises Development, and he testified before the U.S. Congress in support of extending of the Voting Rights Act in 1982.

In 1989, Abernathy wrote And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, a controversial autobiography about his and King's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. He was ridiculed for the revelations in the book about Martin Luther King's alleged infidelity. Abernathy eventually became less active in politics and returned to his work as a minister. He died of heart disease on April 17, 1990. His tombstone is engraved with the words "I tried".

Randolph Blackwell

Randolph T. Blackwell (born March 10, 1927 in Greensboro, North Carolina, died May 21, 1981) was a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, serving in Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference, amongst other organizations. Coretta Scott King described him as an "unsung giant" of nonviolent social change.In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Blackwell's father was active in Marcus Garvey's United Negro Improvement Association; Randolph attended association meetings with his father, and visited the prison where Garvey was held. In 1943, inspired by hearing Ella Baker speak, he founded a youth chapter of the NAACP in Greensboro. As a student in sociology at North Carolina A & T University (from which he graduated in 1949) he made an unsuccessful run for the state assembly. He earned a law degree from Howard University in 1953, took an assistant professorship at Winston-Salem Teacher’s College and then became an associate professor in 1954 at Alabama A & M College, where he taught government.While at Alabama A & M, Blackwell became a leader of the 1962 student sit-ins in nearby Huntsville, Alabama. He left academia in 1963 and became a field director in the Voter Education Project, an organization that promoted voter registration among blacks in the South. In March 1963, while attempting to register black voters in Greenwood, Mississippi with Bob Moses and Jimmy Travis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the car they were driving was fired on. Blackwell and Moses escaped injury but Travis was shot and hospitalized; the shooting brought national media attention to the struggle in the south, energized the civil rights movement, and forced the Kennedy administration to investigate. Blackwell became the program director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1964, but after a disagreement with Hosea Williams, he left the organization in 1966 and became the director of Southern Rural Action, an anti-poverty organization in the Deep South.From 1977 to 1979, in the presidency of Jimmy Carter, Blackwell was director of the Office of Minority Business Enterprise in the U.S. Department of Commerce, but was beset there by charges of mismanagement.In 1976 he was given the Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize, and in 1978 the National Bar Association gave him their Equal Justice Award.

WERD (historic radio station)

WERD was the first radio station owned and programmed by African Americans. The station was established in Atlanta, Georgia on October 3, 1949, broadcasting on 860 AM (now used by WAEC).

WERD Atlanta was the first radio station owned and operated by African-Americans. (WDIA in Memphis was on the air in 1948 doing black—or Negro as it was then called—programming, but the owners were not African American). Jesse B. Blayton Sr., an accountant, bank president, and Atlanta University professor, purchased WERD in 1949 for $50,000. He changed the station format to "black appeal" and hired his son Jesse Jr. as station manager. "Jockey" Jack Gibson was hired and by 1951 he was the most popular DJ in Atlanta.

The station was housed in the Prince Hall Masonic Temple building on Auburn Avenue, then one of the wealthiest black neighborhoods in the United States. Located in that same building was the headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, formed in 1957, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and staffed by Ella Baker.

According to Gibson, King would tap the ceiling of SCLC office [just below WERD] with a broomstick to signal he had an announcement to make. Gibson would then lower a microphone from the studio window to King at the window below.WDIA, in Memphis, Tennessee, though white owned, had Nat D. Williams as part of the first radio station programmed entirely for African Americans, WERD had "Jockey Jack" Gibson, a friend of Blayton from Chicago. Blayton sold the station in 1968.

Xernona Clayton

Xernona Clayton Brady (born August 30, 1930 in Muskogee, Oklahoma) is an American civil rights leader and broadcasting executive. During the Civil Rights Movement, she worked for the National Urban League and Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where she became involved in the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Later, Clayton went into television, where she became the first African American from the southern United States to host a daily prime time talk show. She became corporate vice president for urban affairs for Turner Broadcasting.Clayton created the Trumpet Foundation. She was instrumental in the development of the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame that was developed by the foundation to honor the achievements of African Americans and civil rights advocates. She convinced a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan to denounce the Klan. Clayton has been honored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the city of Atlanta for her work.

Civil rights movement (1950s and 1960s)
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