One Person, One Vote: the Legacy of SNCC and the Fight for Voting Rights begins to tell the story of SNCC’s voting rights activism in the Deep South. SNCC organized projects in dozens of communities across the country, and all of these helped empower local people to take control over their own lives and challenged an unjust system. It was not possible to tell each of these stories in the depth they deserve in a pilot website. Instead, One Person, One Vote focuses on three geographical locations that were especially central to SNCC’s voting rights organizing: Southwest Georgia, Mississippi, and the Alabama Black Belt.
The people profiled in One Person, One Vote range from SNCC field staff to local people, and older mentors to “unexpected actors.” We selected them for the important role they played in the struggle for voting rights in Mississippi, Southwest Georgia, and Alabama. The local people – sharecroppers and domestic workers, World War II veterans and high school students – represent the many that took SNCC organizers in, webbed them into the community, and put their bodies on the line for the fight for voting rights. Another crucial element in our decision-making was to shine light on the unexpected actors and emphasize those at the grassroots level that have been most often obscured by history. There are countless others whose stories are as important as the people that One Person, One Vote profiles. The criteria of geographic location, a person’s centrality to the struggle for voting rights, their position at the grassroots of the Movement, as well the availability of digital sources helped guide the Editorial Board’s prioritization of profiles within the given time constraints.
One Person, One Vote focuses on the organizing efforts of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, but SNCC actually operated in concert with many other civil rights groups. In Mississippi, the organizing work of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) paralleled SNCC’s so much so that CORE’s Dave Dennis, as historian John Dittmer recounts, joked that the only difference between a CORE worker and a SNCC worker was “whether one wore a red T-shirt or a blue T-shirt.” In reality, all civil rights organizations in Mississippi functioned together under the banner of the Council of Federated Organizations, an umbrella organization known as COFO. That meant that everyone in SNCC and CORE in Mississippi, as well as the local people in the Movement, were in COFO.
For reasons of organizational clarity, we have chosen not to include SNCC’s Mississippi staff, who also worked under COFO, in the COFO category of the Profile section of One Person, One Vote. Instead, the COFO category includes movement people who worked closely with SNCC in Mississippi through COFO but were members of other civil rights organizations. This decision is not meant to imply that SNCC organizers were not a part of COFO. Instead, Mississippi SNCC staff are included in the SNCC Field Staff category, with the understanding that all SNCC staff in Mississippi were also COFO.
White southerners, as part of the daily repertoire of white supremacy, systematically refused to use courtesy titles when referring to Black people. As civil rights scholar, Charles Payne, notes, “Southern Blacks had to struggle for the use of ‘courtesy titles’ and thus often had a different appreciation for them.” Young activists in the Movement deliberately chose to call their elders Mrs. and Mr. as a symbol of their respect. In honor of this history and these decisions, we have chosen to refer to respected movement elders, such as Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer, as Miss Baker and Mrs. Hamer or alternately, by their last name. With this decision, One Person, One Vote seeks to pass on the tradition of respecting elders that was deeply embedded in the Movement.
One Person, One Vote introduces individuals by their full names and indicates the informal name they were known by in the Movement in quotes, ex. Charles “Chuck” McDew. Individuals are then referred to by their last names as a measure of respect. In profiles of entire families, individuals are introduced by their full names but then are referred to by their first name for the sake of clarity.
One Person, One Vote uses the name people were known by in the Movement. If an individual changed their name later, their changed name is noted in parentheses in the content of the profile. Married names are indicated in parentheses in profile titles. Some women, such as Bernice Johnson (Reagon) and Colia Liddell (Lafayette), changed their names during their time associated with SNCC. Within profiles, these women are referred to by the last name they were using at that particular historical moment.
One Person, One Vote capitalizes Movement because the people who were “in the Movement” tended to capitalize it and talk about it as if it were capitalized.
The primary and secondary sources listed in the References sections of the profiles and map markers include those that were consulted in the writing of content for One Person, One Vote. The sources embedded in the profiles and map markers also informed the content but are not listed again in the References section. They are not meant to be an exhaustive list of all available sources. The same is true for the Secondary Sources page in the Resources section.
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One Person, One Vote: The Legacy of SNCC and the Fight for Voting Rights is a digital gateway linking to digital collections and educational resources owned and maintained by institutions across the country. These materials have been made available for use in research, teaching and private study. To request permissions to publish, display, broadcast, perform, duplicate, or otherwise use materials outside the context of personal study or other uses covered by the Fair Use clause in U.S. Copyright Law, please contact the owning institution. Material embedded in the One Person, One Vote site links to the digital item hosted by the owning institution and identifies the owning institution by name in the caption.