SNCC Legacy Project and Duke University Collaboration

In 2013, the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) Legacy Project and Duke University formed a partnership to chronicle the historic struggles for voting rights and to develop ongoing programs that contribute to a more civil and inclusive democracy in the 21st century.

In the 1960s, young SNCC activists partnered with Black southerners in a grassroots struggle for freedom. SNCC became the cutting edge of the direct-action Civil Rights Movement, focusing on both political freedom and equal economic opportunity. Its full-time student workers, “field secretaries,” worked with local Black activists to generate new community organizations and to create a radically inclusive democracy that valued all of its citizens. As SNCC activist and SLP member, Charles Cobb explains:

At a deeper level than the immediate political concern with voter registration, SNCC’s work was also about cultivating new local leadership and reinforcing existing local leadership. SNCC field secretaries did not see themselves as community leaders but as community organizers, a distinction that empowered local participants by reinforcing the idea at the heart of SNCC’s work in every project that “local people” could and should take control of their own lives.

One Person, One Vote Pilot Project

The new documentary website, One Person, One Vote: The Legacy of SNCC and the Fight for Voting Rights, is the first initiative in a longer-term collaboration of the SNCC Legacy Project, Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies, and the Duke Libraries. This digital gateway draws in documents, photographs, and audiovisual materials found at Duke and other SNCC-related collections in repositories across the country and uses them to chronicle the historic struggles for voting rights that youth, converging with older community leaders, fought for and won. The One Person, One Vote website focuses on Southwest Georgia, Mississippi, and the Alabama Black Belt as three geographic locations that were central to SNCC’s voting rights organizing.

SNCC organizers came to Duke as Visiting Activist Scholars to create the One Person, One Vote website. They worked collaboratively with undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, archivists, and others to engage with SNCC’s documentary legacy and contextualize grassroots struggles for voting rights.

Content of the One Person, One Vote website

  • Historic materials including documents, photographs, oral history interviews, and audiovisual material hosted in digital collections at public and academic libraries, as well as independently-hosted material
  • Profiles examining how specific individuals or organizations contributed to the fight for voting rights and told as narratives with primary source material embedded
  • Interactive timeline detailing SNCC’s voting rights efforts from 1960 through 1966 and marking significant events in the development of the voting rights campaign and of SNCC as an organization
  • Map featuring stories from particular places and investigating how political and economic differences in distinct locations shaped organizing strategies
  • Stories using multimedia and documentary methods to highlight important themes in SNCC’s voter registration work

Project Team

Advisory Board members: William Chafe (Duke-CDS), Courtland Cox (SLP), Wesley Hogan (Duke-CDS), Jennifer Lawson (SLP), Lynn McKnight (Duke-CDS), Naomi Nelson (Duke-Libraries), and Will Sexton (Duke-Libraries)

Editorial Board members: Geri Augusto (SLP), Molly Bragg (Duke-Libraries), Charlie Cobb (SLP), Emilye Crosby (SUNY-Geneseo), Karlyn Forner (Duke-Libraries), John Gartrell (Duke-Libraries), Hasan Kwame Jeffries (Ohio State), Judy Richardson (SLP), and Timothy Tyson (Duke-CDS)

Student project team: Amina Bility, Todd Christensen, Aaron Colston, Kaley Deal, Eliza Meredith, Alexandria Miller, Annie Piotrowski, David Romine, and Sarah Scriven

Project Manager: Karlyn Forner