The Rise and Decline of Civil Rights Groups

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Black civil rights groups, which started paving the way for racial change in the United States in the early 1900s, peaked in power during the 1960s. But after the voting rights and civil rights acts were passed in the mid-1960s, and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, their influence waned as African Americans were elected to public office and as the media focused on other causes.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

· Founded: February 1909 in New York by Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois and Henry Moskowitz, among others.

· Highlights: Led anti-lynching movement; won Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation case; member Rosa Parks's refusal to give up bus seat led to 381-day Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott in 1955.

· Membership: 500,000 listed in 1968; 300,000 to 400,000 today.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference

· Founded: January 1957 in Atlanta by Ella Baker, Bayard Rustin, Fred Shuttlesworth and Joseph Lowery, among others.

· Highlights: Formed by the leaders of the Montgomery bus boycott, and King, its first president, led modern civil rights movement.

· Membership: 250,000 listed in 1968; 125,000 today.

Congress of Racial Equality

· Founded: 1942 in Chicago by students James Farmer, Bernice Fisher, James R. Robinson and George Houser, among others.

· Highlights: The interracial group adopted Mohandas K. Gandhi's principle of nonviolent resistance. In 1961, CORE co-organized Freedom Rides to desegregate the South.

· Membership: 250,000 listed in 1968; about 25,000 today.

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

· Founded: April 1960 in Raleigh, N.C., with an SCLC grant, by students Diane Nash, John Lewis, Julian Bond, James Bevel and Marion Barry, among others.

· Highlights: SNCC was the driving force behind the Freedom Rides. James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were working on behalf of SNCC and CORE when they were killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan in 1964. SNCC disbanded in the 1970s.


Today, some groups are filling the gaps left by older civil rights groups by using new technology.

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

· Founded: 1996 in the Bay Area of California by Van Jones and Diana Frappier.

· Highlights: Monitors police action against blacks and Latinos, leads youth initiatives called Silence the Violence and Books Not Bars, and champions the creation of "green-collar jobs" to put low-income people to work on projects such as installing solar energy panels.

Color of

· Founded: 2005 in San Francisco by Jones and James Rucker in response to Hurricane Katrina.

· Highlights: Delivered aid to hurricane victims in New Orleans, and drew attention through Internet blogs to the 2007 prosecution of six black teenagers in Jena, La. The activism resulted in bus caravans that were reminiscent of the Freedom Rides.

The Michael Baisden Show

· Launched: 2003 in New York by Baisden, a drive-time radio host.

· Highlights: For years, Baisden focused on delivering positive messages to black listeners, whom he calls "family," in an era of gangsta rap. During the Jena case he opened up his Web site to grass-roots civil rights organizers to stage bus rides.

SOURCE: Staff reports

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