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SCLC March


Organizations led by civil rights leaders Dorothy Height and Benjamin Hooks, who both died this month, were in the forefront of the fight for equal rights, but they are now struggling to stay relevant. And nowhere is that fight more evident than in the group founded by Martin Luther King Jr.: the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

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Just answering questions about the SCLC is a challenge these days. Take last week, when two factions of the group had dueling board meetings.

In Atlanta, board member Bernard Lafayette declared: “The meeting of the board, the national board of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, is here.”

But hundreds of miles away, in rural Eutaw, Ala., board member Markel Hutchins said: “This is the only official meeting of the national board of directors of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.”

The venerable civil rights group has been embroiled in a power struggle for months — ever since it elected Bernice King to be president of the organization her father helped form. That was in October, and she has yet to be installed. She did not returned phone calls from NPR seeking comment.

Two board officers, Chairman Raleigh Trammel of Ohio and Treasurer Spiver Gordon of Alabama, are the target of federal, state and internal SCLC investigations into whether some $500,000 has been misspent. They were voted out by a special board meeting in Atlanta earlier this month.

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