The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was established in January of 1957 by group of black ministers and leaders in Atlanta, GA. Their objective was to end segregation in all forms by using nonviolent and economic actions. The SCLC contributed to many major Civil Rights activities including the Albany Movement, the Birmingham Campaign, March on Washington, St. Augustine Protests, the Montgomery March, Grenada Freedom Movement, and the Jackson Conference.
While many blacks supported the group and the movement, they were still governed and controlled by whites. Most of them had white employers and landlords, and they could not afford to risk getting fired or evicted by actively supporting the SCLC. However, black churches were run and controlled by blacks and offered black ministers a voice into the SCLC and the Civil Rights Movement without fear of their direct superiors. It also gave self-employed blacks a voice in the movement.
The goal of the SCLC was to plan and support nonviolent methods of desegregation in the South. In February of 1957, Martin Luther King Jr. was elected as the group’s president, and it was also run by a board of elected members. The SCLC was described “by one member as ‘a bunch of Baptist preachers,’ and by another as “a movement, not an organization.” (Fairclough, 2). The group was founded in response to the protest movements in Montgomery, Tallahassee, and Birmingham. It included primarily black ministers.
The March on Washington was one of the most notable events throughout the Civil Rights Movement. It was held in August of 1963 to advocate for civil and economic rights of blacks. The SCLC assisted in supporting the protests held and fought for new legislation to get rid of segregation. During this march, King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in which he painted a picture of what he hopes the Civil Rights Movement will result in.
In 1967, King gave a speech, “Where Do We Go from Here?” at the SCLC conference. In his speech, King called for the ethos of the group to be rebranded. According to Werner, King’s speech, “reinterpreted the trajectory of the SCLC’s accomplishments; articulated the ‘character’ of established SLC principles; and reconstituted the ‘dwelling place’ of the civil rights struggle.” (Werner, 110).
Adam Fairclough. (1986). The Preachers and the People: The Origins and Early Years of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 1955-1959. The Journal of Southern History, 52(3), 403. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/10.2307/2209569
WERNER, J. B. (2017). Building a “Dwelling Place” for Justice: Ethos Reinvention in Martin Luther King Jr.’S “Where Do We Go from Here?” Rhetoric & Public Affairs, 20(1), 109–132. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/10.14321/rhetpublaffa.20.1.0109
Ewell Reagin. (1968). A Study of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Review of Religious Research, 9(2), 88. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/10.2307/3510055