Civil Rights Campus

Student Activism and the 1960 Youth Leadership Conference


  • Brian Suttell


Civil Rights, North Carolina, Universities, African-American


Several notable civil rights leaders converged at Shaw University
in Raleigh in April 1960, for the Youth Leadership Conference
on Nonviolent Resistance. The discussions that weekend
ultimately led to the creation of the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee (SNCC), one of the most significant civil
rights organizations in the 1960s. Much of the historiography related to
the conference focuses on the establishment of the new organization and
the role of adult civil rights leaders such as Ella Baker, Martin Luther
King, Jr., and James Lawson. There is no denying the importance that
these leaders played in pushing for African American civil rights in the
early 1960s. But this paper reveals the experiences of largely
unheralded individuals and demonstrates the ways in which they
advanced the cause of African American civil rights. The work makes
clear that a burgeoning student leadership had already developed in
Raleigh prior to the historic conference, and participants took these
experiences with them to the conference. Students from historically
black colleges in Raleigh and other cities throughout the South were
instrumental in powering the sit-in movement forward in 1960.
Activists from Shaw University and Saint Augustine’s College (Saint
Augustine’s University today) in Raleigh provided the backbone of a
local movement that was already blossoming prior to the Youth
Leadership Conference.




How to Cite

Suttell, B. (2022). Civil Rights Campus: Student Activism and the 1960 Youth Leadership Conference. Journal of the North Carolina Association of Historians, 29, 23. Retrieved from