The SNCC was one of the most influential groups in the campaign for civil rights although it initially achieved very little. It was under funded and had only one full time member of staff, working from an office in the SCLC office in Atlanta. The opportunity to take part in a privately-funded effort to improve voter registration in Mississippi in the summer of 1961 gave the SNCC greater recognition. At first, some members of the SNCC saw voter registration campaigns as a tame, conservative option after the direct actions of their sit-ins. However, the sheer violence that met their arrival in Mississippi soon changed their minds. SNCC members lived and worked in black communities in the depressed areas of the state for months, even years at a time to win the confidence of African Americans.
The shared poverty and deprivation, which came to a head during the freedom summer of 1964, had the effect of showing the SNCC as one of the more radical groups involved in the civil rights movement. The SNCC held a belief that the local black communities should be given the power to think and act for themselves. This belief was reflected in their scheme of setting up schools in underprivileged areas.
Throughout the mid-1960s the SNCC grew more radical, becoming much more critical of older civil rights campaigners. Many members became tired of the unquestioned commitment to non-violent methods. The celebrity status of Martin Luther King was a further source of irritation for some, as they believed his style of leadership was stifling initiative in the movement.
The SNCC from its earliest days had welcomed white volunteers, but as time passed they became a source of resentment to a handful of the black workers. Because they were often better educated, white activists often took on leadership roles. Radical black SNCC leader Stokely Carmichael once dubbed the white volunteers the 'Pepsi Generation', getting involved in a fashionable trend, nothing more. These opinions became widely shared by the late 1960s and had the damaging effect of costing the civil rights movement valuable white support and money, and led to the campaign beginning to centre around the idea of black power, a term coined by Stokely Carmichael at a SNCC meeting in 1966.
Stokely Carmichael went on to dismiss all white members from the SNCC, and elected Henry Brown the new chairman of the group. Brown was a firm believer in armed self-defence, which shocked many earlier supporters. The SNCC later went on to form a public alliance with the Black Panthers in 1968.