Wednesdays in Mississippi: Uniting Women across Regional and Racial Lines, Summer 1964

By Harwell, Debbie Z. | The Journal of Southern History, August 2010 | Go to article overview

Wednesdays in Mississippi: Uniting Women across Regional and Racial Lines, Summer 1964


Harwell, Debbie Z., The Journal of Southern History


COMING TOGETHER IN THE CENTER OF RACIAL UNREST AT THE PEAK of the civil rights movement, the women of Wednesdays in Mississippi (WIMS) were a study in diversity: black and white; from the North and the South; from the nation's largest cities and smallest towns; privileged and disadvantaged; Protestant, Jewish, and Catholic; those who had earned Ph.D.'s and those who had been denied a formal education. Despite such divergent backgrounds, they shared a common bond as women desiring to bridge the widening racial divide. In the summer of 1964, teams of northern women went to Jackson, Mississippi, under the leadership of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), conducting weekly visits to their southern counterparts, to act as a calming influence in this otherwise volatile time. Participants in this unique program worked woman to woman, encouraging black and white women to communicate their concerns to one another and thereby realize that they shared common goals for their families and their communities. The organizers of WIMS believed that this type of understanding would ultimately lead to an integrated society and that this overarching goal could not be accomplished without support from the white middle-class community. According to the program leaders, no other national group of men or women appeared to be working with the specific goal of opening lines of communication between black and white middle-class women, particularly in Mississippi, to facilitate acceptance of integration and black enfranchisement in the South. (1)

A great deal has been written about high-profile civil rights organizations and their leaders; however, a number of other, often overlooked organizations and support systems--often composed of women--served as a backbone to the larger movement's success. Wednesdays in Mississippi was one such organization. Working outside the traditional power structures of both the broader civil rights movement and Mississippi society, black and white team members employed the intersecting identities of their gender, class, and age to open doors that otherwise would have remained closed to them. In this way, following southern protocol served as both their vehicle and their protection--an approach that was simultaneously unusual among civil rights organizations and quintessentially feminine. (2) Created by the NCNW, WIMS was the only civil rights program organized by women, for women, as part of a national women's organization. (3) Despite this distinction, WIMS is largely absent from the historiography on women in the civil rights movement and on Freedom Summer. This growing body of literature identifies patterns of women's activism within the movement, highlights several individual women who worked primarily in male-led organizations, and chronicles the NCNW and analyzes its leadership, but it does not detail the WIMS project history. Of the works concerning women in the movement, only three contain a brief mention of WIMS: NCNW president Dorothy Irene Height's autobiography, Open Wide the Freedom Gates; Kay Mills's biography, This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer; and Deborah Gray White's study of black women's organizations, Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894-1994. (4)

The NCNW maintains extensive records on the project. Housed at the National Archives for Black Women's History (NABWH) located at the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House in Washington, D.C., the collection includes drafts of the original mission statement, reports of meetings, personal and official correspondence, individual and organizational reports, and team debriefing audiotapes and transcripts. The debriefings detail the events that transpired and outline the project's successes and failures as identified by the teams, while the reports by individual women add a more introspective assessment. The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia serves as the repository for project director Polly Cowan's notebook, staffer Susan Goodwillie's diary, and several oral histories. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Wednesdays in Mississippi: Uniting Women across Regional and Racial Lines, Summer 1964
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.