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Sat, 02.13.1937

The Southern Negro Youth Congress Begins

Souvenir Program

*On this date in 1937, The Southern Negro Youth Congress (SNYC) was founded.  Established in 1937 at a conference in Richmond, Virginia the Southern Negro Youth Congress consisted of young leaders that participated in the National Negro Congress. 

The first gathering of the SNYC consisted of a wide range of individuals. Such individuals as representatives from almost all the HBCU’s in the country, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, young steel workers, and even members of the YMCA all joined together to form the Southern Negro Youth Congress.  The SNYC felt that the major threat to the role of democracy was not communism or socialism but rather fascism was the biggest threat, not only to the Black population but also a major threat to the white population as well. Many members of the Southern Negro Youth Congress felt that it was a great organization because it allowed people to not only settle into the Southern areas but also take action to change it for the better as well.

The SNYC engaged in many activities during the late 1930s and 1940s such as leading boycotts against discriminatory working environments, registering Black votes, discussed problems with government officials in Washington, D.C., organized workers into unions and assisted rural Blacks in legal cases. The Southern Negro Youth Congress performed such studies as taking items being purchased in a Black community and then comparing the prices to those same items being purchased in a white community. This study showed that prices for the same goods were 20-30% higher in the Black communities than they were in the white communities, which meant that the citizens who were struggling most to survive were actually paying higher prices for the items that were necessary for them to live. 

Prominent members of the SNYC consisted of veteran activists James Jackson, Helen Gray, Esther Cooper Jackson and Edward E. Strong and at one time or another had support that included Mary McCleod BethuneCharlotte Hawkins Brown, Franklin D. Roosevelt and W. E. B. DuBois. At its prime the Southern Negro Youth Congress claimed that it represented about 250,000 young Black southerners but due to insufficient records these numbers could not be verified. The Southern Negro Youth Congress saw its demise in 1949 in part due the times that occurred post World War II. The United States was undergoing what later became known as the Cold War and this led to heightened racial tension and encouraged local and national law enforcement agencies to increase the surveillance of radical and subversive organization.

According to the United States Attorney General, Tom Clark, the SNYC appeared as a subversive organization. The Southern Negro Youth Congress was based on two fundamental objectives which were to democratize the South and to provide equal opportunities to its residents and although the Southern Negro Youth Congress disbanded by 1949 the effects of the SNYC’s efforts were not lost in that instilled an essence and spirit into the people for the further American Civil Rights Movement that would occur a decade later. 

Reference:

Zinned Project.org

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