In 1964, veteran fieldworkers of the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and a cohort of northern volunteers met in Waveland, Mississippi. The 1964 Mississippi Summer Project, or what has become popularly known as the Freedom Summer, just ended and those that played a key role in organizing the summer reflected upon next steps for both the organization and the movement. In his memo, titled “What is SNCC?” James Forman sought to remind those gathered in Waveland about the roots and structure of SNCC. “The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee owes its very existence to the college campuses,” he explained, “and no matter how we may be organizing in communities, no matter how deep our roots may go into the people in the Black Belt, we started growing this little tree of protest in the college communities, we were supported by the Northern college communities, and in fact our name implies that we were intended primarily to be some coordinating body of students of the South.”1
SNCC and the 1964 Freedom Summer have been the subject of extensive scholarship.2 Former SNCC fieldworkers and volunteers have also been on the forefront of digitizing archival sources and making their stories and experiences accessible to a broader public.3 But the structure and function of the organization’s national network, or what Forman defined as SNCC’s “tree of protest” have received less scholarly attention. The Tree of Protest uses mapping software, digital archives, and oral history videos to reconstruct the programmatic architecture of SNCC’s Tree of Protest, including: Friends of SNCC Chapters, recruitment for the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the post-summer activist network. The archive maps, essays, and lessons expand our understanding of the critical work and impact of SNCC on American political life in the 1960s while also contributing to ongoing conversations about democracy, citizenship, and contemporary social movements.
How to use this site
- The Archive Maps page offers interested scholars, teachers, and students a set of maps to investigate the geography of SNCC’s organizing, both in Mississippi and around the United States.
- The Essays page offers several visualizations and tables that make specific arguments on aspects of SNCC’s national network.
- The Sources and Methods page explains how I developed the maps. There you can also find links to data spreadsheets and other sources as well as possible directions for future research.
- The Teaching page offers a set of lessons that seek to combine historical analysis and digital inquiry with contemporary movements for democracy and increased civic participation.
Author and Suggested citation
Author: David S. Busch
When citing maps or essays, please use the following citation format: David S. Busch, “Title of map, essay or dataset,” The Tree of Protest (2018): website address
Project news and road map
The Tree of Protest is an ongoing project. The first iteration focused mostly on students. In the coming years we’ll be adding maps and essays on teachers, lawyers, ministers, and residents.
These are the plans for the project’s future development:
- Finalize and embed new essay maps
- Build archive pages for archive maps
- Finalize and embed updated archive maps
- Develop crowd-source map for scholar and volunteer input
- Draft lessons for use in the classroom/community organization
2019-2020: New Developments
- With generous support from The History Makers, the second iteration was expanded to include new maps and the first set of essays. One essay was published in Current Research in Digital History, Volume 3.
2016-2018: Initial Development and Release
- With digital humanities grant from the AW Mellon Foundation in 2016, the first iteration was developed, titled “Mapping the Freedom Summer,” and presented aspects of the project at Our (Digital) Humanity: Storytelling, Media Organizing, and Social Justice.
- “What is SNCC?” folder 1, box 1, MSS 655, Samuel Walker Papers, 1964-1966, Wisconsin Historical Society
- Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Boston, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981); Charles M. Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995); Wesley Hogan, Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC’s Dream for a New America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007); John Dittmer, The Good Doctors: The Medical Committee for Human Rights and the Struggle for Social Justice in Health Care (Oxford, MS: University of Mississippi Press, 2009); Jon Hale, Freedom Schools: Student Activists in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement (NY: Columbia University Press, 2018)
- SNCC Digital Gateway, SNCC Legacy Project and Duke University, https://snccdigital.org and Civil Rights Movement Archive, https://www.crmvet.org