Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Even a superficial look at history reveals that no social advance rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” So today, we’re going to give props the right way, by remembering not only the legacy of Dr. King, but also the unsung heros who fought for equality and justice. There were countless groups and individuals that believed in Dr. King’s message and rallied behind him to make the Civil Rights Movement the success that it was. So, we’re going to show respect and drop some knowledge on some of these amazing people and organizations.
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
Started by Ella Baker, The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee also known as SNCC was responsible for organizing some of the most successful civil rights campaigns. They put themselves in danger participating in sit-ins, freedom rides and helping plan the 1963 March on Washington. What’s so special about SNCC is that it was created and mostly made of up of college kids. They played an integral part in the movement and even, at their young age, they realized their capacity to create change and make history.
Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)
CORE was an extremely diverse and multifaceted organization. Of the 50 original members 22 were women and 28 were men and about 2/3 of them were actually white. CORE mirrored it’s ideals from Gandhi’s non-violent passive resistance movements that were taking place in India as they were trying to gain independence. They believed that the same methods could be used in America to fight segregation and inequality of the races. They introduced civil disobedience to the Civil Rights Movement, and taught others how to passively resist oppression, no matter what the outcome.
Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
The first president of the SCLC was Dr. King himself. It became a coalition of various groups who shared the common goal of ending segregation and promoting civil rights without the use of violence. What separated the SCLC from other organizations was it’s foundation in the church, which at the time was extremely controversial. The SCLC was a huge player in the civil rights movement and created programs such as Citizenship Schools, which offered adult literacy classes so that black people could be eligible to vote. The SCLC also organized several major marches and protests, and was responsible for helping to create the Poor Peoples Movement, which was one of the last things Dr. King worked on before his death.
Women of the Movement
Women played a major role in ensuring the success of the Civil Rights Movement. From bus boycotts to the sit-ins. Women were deeply involved in the movement from it’s inception. We’ve all heard of Rosa Parks, but have you heard of Ella Baker, Septima Poinsette Clark, Daisy Bates, or Fannie Lou Hame? These women along with countless others sacrificed their time, wages, and in some cases freedom to advance the cause. Often overlooked, women, were the pillars of the movement.
What We Can Do
As we move closer to fulfilling Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, we must not forget that injustice still exists in our society. We’ve come a long way from the ’60s but there is still much work to be done, and there are a lot of organizations doing it. When we reflect on what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day means, we must also remember the countless others who sacrificed and fought to make the movement survive. Without them, none of this would have been possible. It is important to keep in mind that these nameless individuals were our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. They were normal everyday people who believed that they could affect positive change. They were no different than you and I. It’s now our responsibility to continue working toward Dr. King’s dream in order to ensure that it becomes a reality for future generations.