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Chicago SNCC History Project Archives

Finding Aid: Chicago SNCC History Project Archives
Repository: Chicago Public Library, Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature

Chicago SNCC History Project ArchivesThe Chicago Area Friends of SNCC (CAFSNCC) was founded in January of 1963 by a small group of Chicago activists interested in supporting and lending financial assistance to SNCC’s work in the South through fundraising, clothing and food drives, and recruitment. Similar to other “Friends of SNCC” groups which operated mainly in the northern and western part of the United States, CAFSNCC held close ties with the Southern movement. The CAFSNCC also involved itself in many local Chicago civil rights struggles such as adequate and fair employment, education and housing for African Americans in the city and played an important role in the 1963 Chicago Schools Boycott. As part of Freedom Day activities, the CAFSNCC organized Freedom Schools for children to attend where they could learn about the history of African American freedom struggles. Autonomous in structure, the Chicago Area Friends of SNCC, unlike SNCC, was membership based. The CAFSNCC ended in 1968 with the collapse of SNCC at the national level.

The Chicago SNCC History Project Archives contains the papers of the CAFSNCC, SNCC—National, and the Chicago SNCC History Project. The CAFSNCC records include correspondence, manuscripts, administrative and financial and legal papers related to the group’s activities. Also included are records and clippings of the 1963 Chicago Schools Boycott as well as materials from other Chicago-based civil rights organizations like the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations (CCCO), the Chicago Urban League, the Negro American Labor Council (NALC) and the Tenants Committee for Better Education of Robert Taylor Homes. The SNCC-National records contain administrative records and correspondence from the national headquarters in Atlanta, GA as well as communications from various other SNCC organizing projects across the country. Also represented are manuscripts either authored by or featuring SNCC, an incomplete run of the SNCC’s publication, The Student Voice, and photographs. The final series documents the Chicago SNCC oral history project, including records from the 2005 Tell the Story Conference and interviews and interview transcripts from oral histories with former CAFSNCC members and SNCC staff.

Selected Artifacts

One of the main missions of the Chicago Area Friends of SNCC (CAFSNCC) was to support SNCC's efforts in the South, including its organizing campaigns to register voters and change the landscape of Southern politics.  Many African Americans paid dearly for registering to vote, often losing their homes, jobs and even their lives.  Following one particular food drive in 1963-1964, CAFSNCC shipped 113,000 pounds of food to Mississippi.  The CAFSNCC were instrumental in Chicago civil rights demonstrations in addition to supporting civil rights activities in the South.  In 1963, CAFSNCC participated in the Chicago Schools Boycott, protesting unequal and racially segregated public schools in Chicago.  The CAFSNCC organized Freedom Schools for students to attend in lieu of attending the public schools on Freedom Day, October 22, 1963. The Student Voice was the official paper of SNCC and was published out the organization's headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. This particular issue of The Student Voice from 1964 highlights SNCC's presence and involvement in Mississippi civil rights activism, particularly the struggle around political representation for African Americans in the state.  SNCC helped to found and establish the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964. The two-day Tell the Story conference was held in October of 2005 and brought together activists, scholars, students, leaders and community members to remember and engage the role of the CAFSNCC and SNCC in the civil rights movement.  Through the conference and through an oral history interview project of former CAFSNCC members and SNCC staff, the records of the Chicago SNCC History Project serve as an important part of the collection which offers a contemporary look back at the civil rights movement.

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