Voting Rights, Then and Now: The SNCC Legacy Project

Thursday, September 24, 2015
Humanities Writ Large

An ongoing partnership between Duke's Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University Libraries, and the SNCC Legacy Project was the subject of a recent story on WUNC. The collaboration centers on the living memory of members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a leading force in the fight for minority voting rights in the 1960s.

According to its organizers, the project "will encourage young people today to consider the lessons of the past and look to these examples of courage and intelligence, as well as strategies of organizing that helped them achieve their objectives."

Charlie Cobb, one of the SNCC veterans participating in the project, noted in an interview that in his early days others served a similar role for him.

[Cobb] credits the generation before him, people like Ella Baker, in helping to shape SNCC’s voting rights legacy.

“I could go through a whole list of people in Mississippi and other parts of the South in their 50s, 60s, 70s even in their 80s who took us by the hand and basically said, 'Yeah, we like all this energy ya’ll seem to have, but really we’re not interested in having sit-ins here. This is what we want,' and they all wanted voter registration," Cobb said.

Fast forward 50 years. The National Voter Registration Day project says on its website 6 million Americans did not vote in 2008 because they missed a registration deadline or they just didn’t know how to register.

In the South, a lot of those disenfranchised voters are people of color. Since 2010, North Carolina and 20 other states have imposed new restrictions on voting, from voter ID requirements to early voting cutbacks.

Cobb says SNCC veterans realized it was time to pass on their mobilization and organization skills before they pass on.

The website One Person, One Vote represents another important component of the project, which is to collect a full, archival record of the SNCC's rich history.

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