From its inception shortly after the 1960 Greensboro lunch counter sit-in to its dissolution amid the violence of the summers of 1967-69, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, was one of the most important and influential components of the civil rights movement; here, in a vivid, astute history, black journalist Carson precisely delineates SNCC's front-line position along the battlefield of social change. Two phases in SNCC history emerge. In the first, the internal conflicts were between advocates of direct-action nonviolent protests and proponents of stepped-up voter registration drives; SNCC, involved in both (from the ""Freedom Rides"" to the Mississippi voter-registration campaign that cost three SNCC workers their lives), became more a part of the New Left than any other civil rights group, attracting white college students--like Mario Savio, sparkplug of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement--and spreading its training in nonviolent tactics and organizing skills. SNCC's most publicized period came, however, with the rise of Stokeley Carmichael to leadership. This entailed two major shifts: first, the organization abandoned its earlier loose, decentralized structure; and, second, it began to talk and act in terms of ""black power,"" which led to the expulsion of white members. Carson carefully traces the rise of this last position within the group and shows that Carmichael himself was more ambivalent than his public utterances revealed; Carson is also clearly critical of the shift--on the basis that it moved SNCC from organizing large groups of people over time and toward more circumscribed and sporadic efforts. The succession of Rap Brown to leadership coincided with both the urban riots of the late 1960s (when SNCC, concurrently, was shifting its attention from the rural south to the cities) and a concerted attempt by federal and state agencies to infiltrate and destroy the group--as soon came to pass. Carson's treatment of these events is at once graphic, imaginative, and stringently analytical, putting this in a class with Howell Raines' My Soul Is Rested (1977) as one of the few solid, synoptic works on the civil rights movement.
Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1980
Page Count: -
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1980
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