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Sat, 02.13.1937

The Southern Negro Youth Congress is Founded

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 participating 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 HBCUs in the country, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, young steel workers, and even members of the YMCA 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. Still, 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 settle into the Southern areas and take action to change it for the better.

The SNYC engaged in many activities during the late 1930s and 1940s such as leading boycotts against discriminatory working environments, registering Black votes, discussing problems with government officials in Washington, D.C., organizing workers into unions, and assisting rural Blacks in legal cases. The Southern Negro Youth Congress performed such studies as taking items purchased in a Black community and then comparing the prices to those purchased in a white community. This study showed that prices for the same goods were 20-30% higher in the Black communities than in the white communities, which meant that the citizens who were struggling most to survive were 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, and Esther Cooper Jackson. and Edward E. Strong and, at one time or another, had the 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 these numbers could not be verified due to insufficient records.

The Southern Negro Youth Congress saw its demise in 1949 partly due to the times that occurred post-World War II. The United States was undergoing what later became known as the Cold War, which led to heightened racial tension and encouraged local and national law enforcement agencies to increase the surveillance of radical and subversive organizations.

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: democratizing the South and providing its resident's equal opportunities. Although the Southern Negro Youth Congress disbanded by 1949, the effects of the SNYC’s efforts were not lost in that it instilled an essence and spirit into the people for the further American Civil Rights Movement that would occur a decade later. 

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