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Thu, 01.10.1957

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is Formed

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*On this date in 1957, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was founded. It was put together at a meeting of clergymen in New Orleans, La.

Martin Luther King Jr. was elected its first president. (SCLC) is an American nonsectarian agency with headquarters in Atlanta, Ga.  It was established to coordinate and assist local organizations working for the full equality of Blacks in all aspects of American life. The organization worked mainly in the South and some border states, conducting leadership-training programs, citizen-education projects, and voter-registration drives.

The SCLC played a major role in the civil-rights march on Washington, D.C., in 1963 and in antidiscrimination and voter-registration drives, notably at Albany, Ga., and Birmingham and Selma, Ala., in the early 1960s campaigns that spurred passage of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. After King's assassination in April 1968, the Reverend Ralph David Abernathy took his place as president. While the SCLC kept its philosophy of nonviolent social change, it soon ceased to mount giant demonstrations and confined itself to smaller campaigns, chiefly in the South.

The organization was further weakened by several schisms, including the departure early in 1972 of the Chicago leader, the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, and his followers.  They had staffed Operation Breadbasket, which was directed at economic goals. Jackson set up a new organization, Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity), with similar economic aims.

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