Women's history

Building the Collective “voice of Negro women in Mississippi”: The National Council of Negro Women in Mississippi in the 1960s and 1970s Lesson Plan

OVERVIEW

With this article, Rebecca Tuuri introduces the history, mission, and innovative female leaders who championed the National Council of Negro Women from its inception in 1935 through its spread and successes specifically in the state of Mississippi during the 20th century. Focusing on NCNW’s efforts to unite diverse social and political organizations, Tuuri describes how the National Council for Negro Women has worked to support Black women in achieving leadership roles, promoting health and education, and achieving Black pride in Mississippi communities.

Building the Collective “voice of Negro women in Mississippi”: The National Council of Negro Women in Mississippi in the 1960s and 1970s

Theme and Time Period

In November 1966, Noel Henry, wife of prominent Clarksdale NAACP leader Aaron Henry, sent her regrets to Dorothy Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW). Height was organizing a workshop to draw Black women leaders of all socioeconomic levels from around the state to Jackson to discuss how the NCNW could be most helpful to them. While Henry could not attend, she confirmed the value of bringing women, “regardless of status,” together.

Mississippi's Forgotten Soldiers: Women in the Ranks during the Civil War

Theme and Time Period

Mississippi’s Civil War chronicle includes such notable generals as Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Joseph E. Johnston, and John C. Pemberton, as well as the thousands of common men they commanded.  Surprisingly, an untold number of daring women joined them on battlefields across the state, even though societal standards of the time forbade them to do so.

Minnie Geddings Cox and the Indianola Affair, 1902-1904 Lesson Plan

Overview

In January 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt refused to accept the resignation of Minnie Geddings Cox, postmistress for the city of Indianola and Mississippi’s first African American postmistress. Roosevelt subsequently closed Indianola’s post office, and it remained closed for more than a year. The newspapers called the incident the “Indianola Affair.” Raised by business owner parents and educated at one of the premier schools for aspiring African American women, Cox sought opportunities beyond the traditional expectations for women of the time.

Minnie Geddings Cox and the Indianola Affair, 1902-1904

Theme and Time Period

In January 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt refused to accept the resignation of Minnie Geddings Cox, postmistress for the city of Indianola and Mississippi’s first African American postmistress. Roosevelt subsequently closed Indianola’s post office, and it remained closed for more than a year. The newspapers referred to the post office closing as the “Indianola Affair.” Cox’s role in the Indianola Affair, however, has been reduced to a footnote in early twentieth-century United States history.

Burnita Shelton Matthews: Suffragist, Feminist, and Judicial Pioneer Lesson Plan

Overview

On December 28, 1894, Burnita Shelton Matthews was born into an educated, civic-minded family, in Copiah County, Mississippi. Although she aspired from a very young age to pursue a legal career, her father insisted that she pursue the study and teaching of music which he believed was a more ladylike profession. Following her marriage to Percy A. Matthews, she taught music for a short while in Georgia before moving to Washington, D.C. to accept a job with the Veterans Administration. She strategically chose to live and work in Washington, D.C.

Burnita Shelton Matthews: Suffragist, Feminist, and Judicial Pioneer

Theme and Time Period

Burnita Shelton was one of six children, and the only daughter, born on December 28, 1894, to Burnell Shelton and Lora Drew (Barlow) Shelton. She was part of an educated, civic-minded family. Her mother was a graduate of Whitworth College, a boarding school for young women in Brookhaven, Mississippi, and her father was a planter, cattleman, and also an elected official serving at various times as sheriff and tax collector of Copiah County and as the clerk of the chancery court.

Sarah Dickey: Indomitable Mississippi Educator Lesson Plan

Overview

Sarah Dickey was a young women in her twenties when she was sent on a mission by the United Brethren Church to Vicksburg, Mississippi. Between 1863 and 1865, she helped operate a school in Vicksburg for newly emancipated slaves. It was during this time that Dickey realized her life’s calling – to teach African American children during one of the most turbulent times in American history. After the war, she enrolled at Mount Holyoke, a female college in Massachusetts known for training teachers.

Sarah Dickey: Indomitable Mississippi Educator

Theme and Time Period

During Reconstruction, one of the most turbulent periods for race relations in the state’s history, Sarah Ann Dickey, a White female teacher from the North, became a pioneer by providing education to newly freed enslaved people in Mississippi. Dickey worked tirelessly and determinedly to improve the lives of the most vulnerable population group in the state, African American women and children. She believed that by educating Black women and training them to become teachers, dual paths of security and opportunity could be established for all freedmen.