Unsung Heroes: The Student Voice

The Student Voice, a publication of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

The Student Voice, a publication of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). June 2, 1964 (Newseum Collection)

Throughout the month of February, in honor of Black History Month, we will be featuring unsung heroes and stories of the civil rights movement. You can find more stories of those well-known and not-so-well-known in our Digital Classroom’s “Making A Change” module. To access their stories, you must be signed into the Digital Classroom; registration is free. 

Discouraged by the lack of press coverage of the civil rights movement by the mainstream press, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or “SNCC”, began their own independent newspaper, The Student Voice. Published between 1960 and 1965 in Atlanta, the newspaper covered news of student non-violent protests and reported on on the general activities of the organization.

In the first issue of the newspaper released in June 1960, the newspaper printed the organizations’s “Statement of Purpose”, which included,

“Through nonviolence, courage displaces fear; love transforms hate. Acceptance dissipates prejudice; hope ends despair. Peace dominates war; faith reconciles doubt.”

The goal of the newspaper was to to improve communications and publicize their members’ work; to provide accurate coverage of the civil rights movement and to “present to northern supporters news which the press was not covering.” Like many small organizations, they struggled with funding and, at times, published irregularly. The newspaper also hoped to increase donations for the organization by using the publication to communicate with potential donors and selling SNCC materials such as records and posters.

The newspaper was distributed across the country; mainly on college campuses. In June of 1965, the newspaper’s name was changed to The Voice and published its last issue in Dec. 20 of that year.

Throughout the civil rights movement, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee played a major role by participating in voter registration drives, sit-ins, Freedom Summer and the March on Washington, among other nonviolent protests and demonstrations. Their efforts showed how the First Amendment, including the power of the press, can give students a voice that cannot be ignored.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

  1. In the 1960s, SNCC used the power of the press to spread their message because the mainstream press would not. Today, student newspapers continue to share news with students, teachers and parents across the country. What other methods are students using to communicate? What methods are most effective? Why?
  2. Many mainstream newspapers ignored the civil rights movement when it was happening, especially in the south. How did civil rights leaders use the power of the press to bring national attention to the movement? (In the Digital Classroom, you can view the Newseum’s “Press and the Civil Rights Movement” for a brief history of the civil rights movement and the role of the press.)

Do you have an “Unsung Hero” that you would like included in the Digital Classroom? Visit our blog for more details on the Unsung Heroes Writing Contest.  

The Newseum Digital Classroom is a free resource featuring primary sources, interactives, historic newsreels, videos and lesson plans that bring history, journalism and the First Amendment to life for students.

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