The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is known for the major contributions it made during the American civil rights movement. The civil rights movement was pushing for constitutional changes to ensure that Black Americans enjoyed equal rights under the law like the rest of America’s citizens. Back then, segregation was the order of the day with African Americans prevented from enjoying the same level of access and quality in the provision of social services like education. Martin Luther King Jr was the first SCLC president. Dr. King Jr. was one of the most notable civil rights leaders.
The Southern Christian Leader Conference Formation
One of America’s most well-known activists is Rosa Louise McCauley Parks. Ms. Parks led other Americans in the Montgomery bus boycott. This social and political protest called for eliminating segregation in the public transit system of Montgomery, Alabama. The boycott inspired many leaders, Dr. King Jr. being one of them.
Dr. King Jr. worked with human rights activist Ella Baker, American gay rights advocate Bayard Rustin and others. The three chose Ebenezer Church in Atlanta as the venue for their meeting to discuss the formation of the organization. About 60 black ministers and leaders attended the meeting.
These leaders wanted the organization to focus on curbing violence against and segregation of black Americans. Dr. King Jr. and the other leaders agreed to establish the organizations’ first office in the Prince Hall Masonic Temple Building in Auburn Avenue, Atlanta. Human rights activist Ella Baker was one of the earliest staff members and served in the office for a long time.
To run the organization, the leaders elected an elected Board. Dr. King Jr. and the organization’s leaders drew some inspiration Evangelist Billy Graham’s crusades. In 1957, Dr. King Jr. attended Graham’s crusade and the two became friends. Dr. King Jr’s group and Billy Graham’s Evangelistic Association pushed almost similar objectives and in several instances Graham would advice SCLC though privately.
During those early times, the organization strived to attach itself to churches and black communities living in the south. SCLC pushed for change through boycotts and other forms of nonviolent protest.
The Southern Christian Leader Conference Objectives
Firstly, it wanted the constitution changed to end racism and all the evils it presented. Secondly, the organization was interested in Black Power-ideologies focused on pushing for self- determination among persons of African descent. Thirdly, Southern Christian Leader
Conference wanted Participatory democracy. This was about giving the same chance to all Americans who wish to participate in the formulation of laws the same access to the governing political systems.
Southern Christian Leader Conference Notable Members
• Martin Luther King Jr – An American Baptist minister who became the most vocal civil rights movement spokesperson from 1955 until his death in 1968.
• Maya Angelou – An American civil rights activist, memoirist, singer, and a poet. Maya is widely known for her 1969 autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
• Ralph David Abernathy Sr – An iconic Christian minister and American civil rights activist. David was Dr. King Jr’s mentor and played a significant role in helping Dr. King Jr. to establish the Montgomery Improvement
Association. This was the association that spearheaded the Montgomery bus boycott.
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