Mary King at the SNCC 50th Anniversary

19 April, 2010

On April 15–18, 2010, some 1,200 individuals gathered at Shaw University, Raleigh, NC, in a conference to explore the lasting impact of the southern student sit-ins that started in Greensboro, on February 1, 1960. The sit-ins were one among dozens of specific nonviolent methods utilized during the decade-long U.S. civil rights movement. The conference honored the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pron. snick) in April 1960 at Shaw University, where SNCC’s senior adviser Ella Baker had convened the leaders from the various student sit-in movements spread across the South. SNCC emerged from that meeting literally to coordinate the local movements. Mary King worked for SNCC for four years.

Mary King at the SNCC 50th Anniversary

The founding of SNCC is today honored by the city of Raleigh, expressed in acclaim from city officials during the conference. Mary stands before a sign now posted to mark the campus where SNCC’s first meeting occurred. The sit-ins gave the movement its regional character, as the student sit-ins swept across the South and young people refused to cooperate with the racial restrictions in public accommodations.

Mary King at the SNCC 50th Anniversary

Mary was among more than 100 speakers at the SNCC 50th Anniversary conference and discussed implications of a document that she and Casey Hayden (Sandra Cason) wrote in 1965, “Sex and Caste.” Arising from the ferment of black and white women in SNCC who were working in Mississippi at the time, it appears here for your reading. Mary and Casey sent the document to 44 women across the United States then working in movements concerned with peace and civil rights. Many of its recipients began meeting together in small settings to discuss the issues they had raised, gatherings later to be termed consciousness-raising groups. The magazine of the War Resisters League, Liberation, published the document in 1966. It is now credited by historians as tinder for launching second-wave feminism, so named because it gives posthumous credit to those who worked for the advancement of women’s rights in the nineteenth century, or the first wave. Mary also briefly reviewed the significance of the international development of gender studies during the past 30 years.

Mary King at the SNCC 50th Anniversary

Mary signing a copy of Freedom Song for one of today’s interested students.

You can read more about Mary’s experiences with the SNCC in her book, Freedom Song – A Personal Story of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.

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