The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was established at a meeting in New Orleans on Feb. 14, 1957, after the end of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Martin Luther King Jr. served as president of the civil rights organization, initially called the Southern Negro Leaders Conference on Transportation and Nonviolent Integration, until his death in 1968.
SCLC's first major campaign centered on voting rights. Titled the Crusade for Citizenship, the goal was to register thousands of disenfranchised voters throughout the South so they could cast ballots in upcoming elections in 1958 and 1960. Through voter education clinics, it raised awareness among African-Americans about the importance of the vote and how they could use it to improve their lives. SCLC is credited with helping to lay the groundwork for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In the early '60s, the organization added economic inequality to its agenda and created a program called Operation Breadbasket, which urged Blacks to not patronize businesses that wouldn't hire or serve them. It also developed the Poor People's Campaign, which aimed to bring thousands of people to Washington, D.C., to push lawmakers to create legislation that would guarantee employment and housing for poor people of all races. Following King's assassination in 1968, the protest demonstration, which had been postponed, was held in his honor. Led by new president Ralph Abernathy, 3,000 people camped out in Washington for nearly three months.
Today, the Atlanta-based organization has chapters and affiliates nationwide that focus on social, economic and political justice.
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(Photo: Birmingham News /Landov)
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