Why Did SNCC Organize Sit-Ins?


Quick Answer

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organized sit-ins as a nonviolent means to protest racial inequality in the South in the early 1960s. Although protesters who participated in the sit-ins were jeered at, beaten and arrested, they saw the resultant publicity as a way to demonstrate the righteousness of their movement.

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Full Answer

The first sit-in took place in February 1960 in Greensboro, N.C. Four black students sat down at a lunch counter in a Woolworth's store and requested service. When the manager refused to serve them and asked them to leave, they waited patiently until the store closed. The following day, over 20 additional black students joined the sit-in. Newspaper and TV reporters took up the story, and the sit-ins spread to nearby stores. Students in other North Carolina towns and neighboring states soon adopted the tactic. Ella Baker of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference helped set up the SNCC to plan and coordinate the protests.

From sit-ins at lunch counters and restaurants, the SNCC agenda evolved to include wade-ins at public swimming pools, pray-ins at all-white churches and infiltration of public libraries and parks. In the beginning, whites often chose to close facilities rather than integrate. Gradually, however, the sit-in movement gained public and presidential support. SNCC went on to organize other civil rights initiatives, including the freedom riders movement to integrate public transportation, voter registration of rural black poor and the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

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