SCLC (1957)

Samantha Kovach

Southern Christian Leader Conference

  1. Was Founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
  2. Was to abolish segregation in a non violent manner
  3. later would address war and poverty
  4. Expanded with sit-ins
  5. received a foundation grant to take over the Highlander Folk School’s Citizenship Education Project


When sixty black ministers and civil rights leaders met in Atlanta, Georgia on January 10-11 1957, The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was created. In the beginning SCLC struggled with only one full time member, but soon expanded with the student sit-in movement of 1960 and the Freedom Rides of 1961. SCLC also received a foundation grant to take over the Highlander Folk School’s Citizenship Education Project and foundation money to finance voter registration work in the South during this time. The financial difficulties the organization experienced during its earlier years was replaced by an annual income that exceeded $1.5 million and a full-time staff of about 200 people due to its success in Birmingham and Selma. In August 1965, after the riot in Watts (Los Angeles), SCLC shifted its focus to urban poverty in Chicago, but for the next two years, it experienced failure and a steady decline in morale and discipline.
In December 1961, the SCLC initiated its first direct action campaign in Albany, Georgia with a series of marches to protest segregation and discrimination, due to the lack of planning and tension with the rival SNCC, the campaign was a failure. However in 1963 SCLC was able to claim their first victory with a four month campaign in Birmingham, Alabama. The Birmingham campaign, which produced Martin Luther King’s famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail." A campaign in Selma in 1965 led to President Lyndon Johnson's support for the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Late 1967, the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) was launched to bridge the economic chasm between blacks and whites and address the continuing problem of poverty in the U.S. A march on Washington was planned in 1968, but overshadowed by assassination of SCLC founder on April 4, 1968 in Memphis. The Poor People’s campaign collapsed despite an attempt to continue the effort by King’s successor, Rev. Ralph David Abernathy.
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