Statement by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee on the War in Vietnam, Fire, Praise for SNCC Statement on Vietnam, Murdered: Sammy Younge

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee issued an official statement on January 6, 1966, denouncing the United States’ actions in Vietnam after the murder (and lack of investigation) of SNCC worker and student at Tuskegee Institute, Sammy Younge. They were the first civil rights organization to issue an official statement against the war. The NAACP continued to support U.S. actions in Vietnam and celebrated the contributions of Black Americans to the war effort. SNCC expresses the hypocrisy in the U.S. government’s claim to fighting the war for the freedom of the Vietnamese people while continuing to oppress Black Americans at home. In addition to the hypocrisy, their official statement also illustrates their belief that the U.S. “has been deceptive” in their claim of bringing freedom to the Vietnamese and calls for solidarity for all “colored people” across the globe. They end the statement by urging all Americans to resist the draft and instead fight for freedom at home. This selection also includes the SNCC press release of Sammy Younge’s murder and an article in The Movement, a SNCC publication out of California, that covers the various reactions to the SNCC statement.
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
Grade Level

This text is part of the Teaching the Movement Text Library and aligns with Summary Objective 11.C.

Click this link to access the text on the Wisconsin Historical Society website.

Text Dependent Questions
  1. Question
    What is the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s position on the war in Vietnam? They oppose the war in Vietnam.
    They oppose the war in Vietnam.
  2. Question
    What reasons does the statement provide for taking this position?
    They believe the United States government is lying about the reasons for the war. SNCC does not believe the war is about fighting to secure democracy around the world, nor do they believe democracy or freedom has been achieved for Black people in the United States.
  3. Question
    Who is Sammy Younge and why do they invoke his death in this statement? (Refer to the SNCC press release to help answer this question.)
    He was a SNCC worker and a student at the Tuskegee Institute. He was murdered outside of a gas station after he was threatened earlier in the day while registering Black men and women to vote. SNCC invoked Younge in their statement because neither the local police nor the FBI was actively investigating his murder. SNCC used the lack of investigation as an example of the lack of justice here and the lack of justice in the fighting in Vietnam.
  4. Question
    How should Americans respond to the draft according to this statement, and why?
    They should avoid the draft because they are not free at home and should engage with the civil rights movement instead.
  5. Question
    Considering the long-held belief in military service as a path toward acceptance in American society for people of color and the pride often felt by families of color in serving the military, how do you think Black activists and other Black Americans responded to this statement?
    Answers will vary.
  6. Question
    After reading the short article from The Movement, do you think the response to the SNCC statement was positive or negative, and why?
    Some activists praised SNCC for making the statement, but the NAACP disagreed. Some believed the NAACP disagreed with the SNCC statement because of political reasons. NAACP representatives took offense to this perspective.
Reveal Answers
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