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The Making of African American Identity: Volume III, 1917-1968
Theme: SegregationTheme: MigrationsTheme: ProtestTheme: CommunityTheme: Overcome?
Theme: Protest

Albany Georgia, ca. 1961-1962
Albany Movement, Georgia
- Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), "This Is the SCLC," brochure, ca. 1960, excerpts (PDF)
- Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Statement of Purpose, 1960 (PDF)
- Albany (Georgia) Nonviolent Movement, handbill, 1961 (PDF)
- Martin Luther King, Jr., "Where Do We Go From Here?" address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, 16 August 1967

As the civil rights movement gained momentum in the mid 1950s and early 1960s, its leaders embraced nonviolent direct action, a method of protest that sought to persuade Americans of the injustice of discrimination through love, logic, and language. The first three documents capture this optimistic phase of the movement. The fourth reaffirms the value of non-violence in the face of growing disillusionment, anger, and frustration.

The brochure of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) describes the organization's philosophy, its strategy, and its position on voting rights, civil disobedience, and segregation. The brochure also articulates the SCLC's vision of a "beloved community," "where brotherhood is a reality." Note the emphasis it places on the physical witness of thousands of people.

In its statement of purpose, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) enunciates its belief in the transformative power of love. For SNCC, in 1960, love, expressed as non-violence, was at once a strategy and a goal. By the end of the decade, however, the group had removed the word "nonviolent" from its name. Nonetheless, this statement describes the core of belief that enabled activists to endure the brutality they encountered as they strove to create a world "in which reconciliation and justice become actual possibilities."

The Albany, Georgia, Nonviolent Movement illustrates the importance of Christianity to the civil rights movement. It also underscores the movement's faith in the morally suasive power of ideas, logic, reason, argument, and language.

In the early 1960s, while some leaders were building the civil rights movement on a foundation of non-violence, others were questioning its effectiveness. (See the excerpts from Negroes with Guns, #6: Arming.) As the decade progressed, challenges to the ethic of non-violence grew. By 1967, with calls for black power increasing and taking on greater connotations of violence, Martin Luther King, Jr., had to reassert the movement's commitment to non-violence. He did so in his last speech as president of the SCLC. It would be useful to compare this address with Stokely Carmichael's essay "Toward Black Liberation" in Theme I: SEGREGATION. Like Carmichael, King identifies lack of power as the fundamental problem facing African Americans. Unlike Carmichael, however, he offers a solution that urges blacks to take the lead in reforming the broader society rather than withdrawing into separatism. (17 pages.)

Discussion questions
  1. At what audiences are these documents aimed?
  2. What assumptions do they make about their audiences?
  3. How does the Albany Movement handbill frame the civil rights struggle within traditional American political values?
  4. How does the handbill seek to motivate its readers?
  5. Both the SCLC brochure and the Albany Movement handbill were publicity vehicles. How effective are they as such?
  6. How do the authors of the SCLC brochure, the SNCC statement, and the Albany handbill present themselves?
  7. What are the authors of the SCLC brochure, the SNCC statement, and the Albany handbill seeking to achieve with these documents?
  8. How does Martin Luther King, Jr., define power in the SCLC speech? Compare his definition with that offered by Stokely Carmichael in "Toward Black Liberation."
  9. How does King reconcile the will to power with the non-violent ethic of the "beloved community"?
  10. How, by 1967, have the goals of the civil rights movement changed?
  11. How does the SCLC speech illustrate the broadening of King's social criticism?
  12. What is King's critique of calls for violent revolution?
  13. Contrast King's solution to the problem of black powerlessness to that offered by Carmichael.

Framing Questions
  •  What forms did African American protest take?
  •  How did protest strategies and goals evolve over time?
  •  In what ways was African American identity shaped in opposition to the larger American society?

SCLC brochure:   2
SNCC Statement of Purpose:   1
Albany Movement handbill:   1
M. L. King, Jr., address:  13
TOTAL  17 pages
Supplemental Sites
Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), conference website

SNCC: 1960-1966, Six Years of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, from the SNCC Project Group (UNC)

Albany Movement, in Freedom on Film: Civil Rights in Georgia. Digital Library of Georgia

Albany Movement, Georgia, from This Far by Faith (PBS)

The Albany Movement, ch. 16 of The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., King Papers Project, Stanford University

Judge's decision to halt march in Albany, Georgia, 1962, in Eyes on the Prize (PBS)

SNCC position paper on the Vietnam War, ca. 1965, in Eyes on the Prize (PBS)

*PDF file - You will need software on your computer that allows you to read and print Portable Document Format (PDF) files, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have this software, you may download it FREE from Adobe's Web site.

Image: Civil rights activist Slater King confronts Laurie Pritchett, police chief of Albany, Georgia, ca. 1961-1962. Digital image from Georgia Encyclopedia Online, credited to Cochran Studios. Permission pending.

1. Asking   2. Reasoning   3. Singing   4. Marching
  5. Boycotting   6. Arming   7. Voting   8. Separating
  9. Connecting   10. Writing   11. Poetry   12. Theater   13. Images

TOOLBOX: The Making of African American Identity: Volume III, 1917-1968
Segregation | Migrations | Protest | Community | Overcome?

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