Southern Christian Leader Conference (SCLC)

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The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was formed February 14th, 1957 in Atlanta, Georgia, just after the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Martin Luther King Jr as well as 60 other ministers. Martin Luther King Jr was president of the organization until his assassination in 1968. Originally called the ‘Southern Negro Leaders Conference on Transportation and Non-violent Integration’, the organization adopted the title Southern Christian Leadership Conference – by including the word ‘Christian’, it emphasized the spiritual nature of the organization.

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The SCLC played a key role in the civil rights movement. The orgainization advanced civil rights in a non violent manner by assisting Black Americans in registering to vote, opening citizenship schools, holding mass protests, marches, encouraging black student enrollment in black schools and urging Washington to pass civil rights. The Citizenship Schools focused on teaching adults to read so they could pass the voter-registration literacy tests, fill out driver's license exams, use mail-order forms, and open checking accounts. They encouraged all Black Americans to "seek justice and reject all injustice".

Black churches in the southern community played a large role in the lives of Black Americans, so naturally, they took on a lot of leadership in the civil rights movement. Throughout history, the black church served not only as a place of worship but also as a community that offered support, solved disputes, and was a center of political activism. The function of the minister was greatly enhanced, and prominent clergymen such as Martin Luther King Jr. and notable minister-activists such as Ralph Abernathy, King's closest associate, and Bernard Lee, a frequent travel companion of King, made black southern churches into powerful social institutions.

The SCLC's motto was "not one hair of one head of one white person shall be harmed." Althought they wanted change, they were entirely comminted to non-violent civil disobedience as a way to acheive it.

The SCLC continues to exist today and it consists of local Chapters throughout the country that work in their own communities to implement national programs in the areas of voter registration, improvement of education, the Truth and Justice campaign, job-site safety, prison system matters, and direct action against racial prejudice.