Posts tagged with "mississippi"

Overcoming White Americans Massive Resistance to Desegregation and Civil Rights

The physical and emotional abuse many Black families suffered in pursuit of an education and civil rights in America was a traumatizing and arduous journey. Most of the stories have never been told. Some of the victims were as young as 6-years-old Ruby Bridges and 11-year-old Donna Jean Barksdale, who sat alone on her first day of school in Hoxie, Arkansas. Barksdale was one of 21 children to integrate the school in 1955.

School Integration in America
School integration in America refers to the process of desegregating schools and creating racially mixed learning environments. The fight for school integration was a key part of the broader civil rights movement in the United States, and it has had a profound impact on American society.


History of School Integration

  • Pre-1954: Prior to the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling in 1954, schools in the United States were largely segregated by race. This segregation was often enforced by law, and it created a system of education that was unequal and unjust.
  • Brown v. Board of Education: The Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling in 1954 declared that racial segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. This ruling was a major victory for the civil rights movement, and it paved the way for the integration of schools across the country.
  • Challenges to Integration: Despite the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the process of school integration was not easy. Many white communities resisted integration, and there were numerous instances of violence and intimidation directed at black students and families.
  • Progress of Integration: Over time, however, school integration has made significant progress. Today, most schools in the United States are integrated, and the vast majority of students attend schools that are racially diverse.

Impact of School Integration
School integration has had a positive impact on American society in a number of ways:

  • Improved educational outcomes: Studies have shown that students who attend integrated schools are more likely to achieve academic success. They are also more likely to develop positive attitudes towards people of other races.
  • Reduced prejudice: Integrated schools help to reduce prejudice and promote understanding between different racial groups. Students who attend integrated schools are more likely to have friends of other races, and they are less likely to hold negative stereotypes about other groups.
  • Increased social mobility: Integrated schools help to increase social mobility by providing all students with access to the same educational opportunities. This can help to break down the cycle of poverty and create a more just and equitable society.

School integration is a key part of the American civil rights movement, and it has had a profound impact on American society. Integrated schools help to improve educational outcomes, reduce prejudice, and increase social mobility. They are essential to creating a more just and equitable society for all.

School Integration in Arkansas
School integration in Arkansas has been a complex and challenging process that began in the late 1950s and is still ongoing today. The process began with the Little Rock Nine crisis in 1957, when a group of nine African American students were forcibly integrated into the all-white Central High School in Little Rock. This event sparked a national controversy and led to the deployment of federal troops to protect the students. In the years since the Little Rock Nine crisis, Arkansas has made significant progress in integrating its schools. However, the state still faces challenges, such as poverty, segregation, and a lack of resources.

Key Events in School Integration in Arkansas

  • 1957: The Little Rock Nine crisis
  • 1968: The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968
  • 1972: The desegregation of the University of Arkansas
  • 1982: The passage of the Arkansas School Integration Act

Challenges to School Integration in Arkansas

  • Poverty: Arkansas is one of the poorest states in the United States, and this poverty has a significant impact on its schools. Poor students are more likely to attend underfunded schools with fewer resources.
  • Segregation: Despite the progress that has been made, segregation still exists in Arkansas schools. This is due to a variety of factors, including housing patterns, school zoning, and the lack of resources.
  • Lack of resources: Arkansas schools are chronically underfunded, and this lack of resources has a negative impact on all students, regardless of their race or ethnicity.

School integration in Arkansas has been a long and difficult process, but the state has made significant progress in the last 60 years. However, there are still challenges to be faced, such as poverty, segregation, and a lack of resources. By working together, Arkansans can ensure that all students have access to a quality education.

School Integration in Mississippi
The history of school integration in Mississippi is a complex and challenging one. In the early 1950s, Mississippi was one of the most segregated states in the United States. Public schools were segregated by race, and there were no black students enrolled in any white schools.

In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. The decision was a major victory for the civil rights movement, and it led to the gradual desegregation of schools across the country. However, Mississippi resisted school desegregation for many years. In 1962, James Meredith became the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. His admission was met with violent protests by white segregationists, and federal troops had to be sent in to protect him.

Despite the resistance, school integration in Mississippi continued to move forward. By 1970, more than half of black students in Mississippi were enrolled in integrated schools. However, segregation continued to exist in many areas of the state, and it was not until the 1990s that Mississippi finally achieved full school integration. The process of school integration in Mississippi was a long and difficult one, but it was ultimately a success. Today, the state has a diverse and integrated system of public schools, and students of all races and ethnicities have the opportunity to learn and grow together.

Impact of school integration in Florida:
School integration in Florida has had a significant impact on the state’s education system. It has led to increased educational opportunities for black students, improved academic outcomes, and reduced racial isolation. However, school integration has also been controversial, and there are still some challenges to overcome.

Current challenges to school integration in Florida:

  • Resegregation: Some Florida school districts have become more segregated in recent years, as white students have moved to private schools or to other districts.
  • Lack of diversity: Many Florida schools still lack diversity, and black students are more likely to attend schools with predominantly black student populations.
  • Achievement gap: Black students in Florida continue to lag behind white students in academic achievement.

Despite these challenges and by continuing to work to desegregate schools and ensure equal educational opportunities for all students, Florida can create a more just and equitable society.

Read more about segregation in America by eji HERE.

Mississippi Group Aims to Increase Black Women’s Voting Power

By Safiya Charles

It’s not by chance that Cassandra Welchlin leads an organization focused on advocating for the needs of Black women. The social worker, organizer and now executive director of the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable (MS BWR), learned the relationship between power and choice at an early age.

Welchlin is the daughter of a single mother who earned a little over $2 an hour cleaning office buildings in downtown Jackson. Her mother couldn’t afford child care, so Welchlin hid in a utility closet as her mom worked. It was in that closet where Welchlin said she learned her ABCs.

“My mother worked across the street from the state Capitol where mostly white male legislators had the power to write a bill into law to increase her wages,” said Welchlin. “I saw that struggle and developed empathy. I may not have known the words to describe it back then, but I understood that this was about women’s economic security and Black women having dignity in their work.”

Today, she leads a group that works to shift power at the voting booth and at the policy table by advocating for policies and leaders that will improve opportunities for Black women and girls to make the best choices for their families and communities. Its work to advance women’s economic security, increase voter participation and support Black women in leadership has earned the nonprofit a $600,000 Vote Your Voice (VYV) grant over three years to support its operations.

The Southern Poverty Law Center initiative, conducted in partnership with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, supports local, grassroots organizations that are committed to strengthening democracy and voting rights in communities of color in the Deep South. The SPLC has pledged $100 million in grants over the next decade to support organizations in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

“We can’t overstate how critical this work is,” said Robin Brule, the SPLC’s Vote Your Voice program officer. “We’re working with groups on the ground that are place-based and incredibly knowledgeable about their own communities, that have built strong, trusted relationships. They’re working to remove discriminatory barriers to the ballot and are committed to expanding civic engagement and participation, operating, unfortunately, with very few resources to ensure every voter has a voice.”

SHE NEEDED HELP

Cassandra Welchlin is executive director of the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, recipient of a three-year, $600,000 Vote Your Voice grant. (Credit: Jonathan Collins)

The need for this work in Mississippi is undeniable.

Black women in the state who work full-time, year-round earn 57 cents for every dollar white men make, while part-time, part-year workers earn only 51 cents, according to data from the National Women’s Law Center. Child care remains a significant barrier to economic advancement, particularly for single mothers in a state where almost 50% of children are raised in single-parent households – among the highest share in the nation.

Access to adequate health and reproductive care is also a major challenge for many women and families, as the state has for years refused to expand Medicaid coverage for low-wage earning people. Also, last year, when the federal government ended the COVID-19 public health emergency, the state started purging beneficiaries from its rolls.

Monique Harvin came to MS BWR after the birth of her fifth child. Despite having undergone a surgical procedure to prevent future pregnancies, doctors told Harvin she had a tubular pregnancy, a potentially life-threatening condition for mother and baby.

“It was stressful – emotionally, spiritually, and on my body,” said Harvin. “It was hard for me to accept.”

After a difficult pregnancy, and the delivery of a healthy baby, Harvin’s mental health swiftly declined. She felt tired and depressed. Her children’s father worked out of town, leaving her to juggle four young children, a newborn and other responsibilities. She needed help.

Yet Harvin said she couldn’t access any substantial postpartum services through Medicaid because she no longer qualified during a short period following her child’s birth. Before March of last year, Mississippi women could receive only two months of postpartum Medicaid care.

In a passing conversation, a co-worker told Harvin that MS BWR might be interested in hearing her story and could possibly offer some help. Harvin reached out, and she joined what would become a series of meetings and conversations about Black and Latinx women’s struggles seeking quality health care in the state.

“I felt immediately like, ‘Monique, you’re not alone,’” Harvin said. “I got a chance to get it out, to express my concerns, my thoughts, my feelings. Something that had once caused me trauma, depression and anxiety, I could be open about it in a safe environment. Not only sharing but hearing other women’s stories and making connections really helped me to overcome those barriers.”

The initiative, Mississippi Voices Project, which addresses access to health care for Black and Latinx women, is just one of the ways MS BWR aims to translate the individual needs and stories of women into political action. The organization also runs a program, called Quarters Because We Care Project, that provides laundry services to low-income families throughout the year.

“We leverage that as an opportunity to do all the work that we do,” said Welchlin. “We do voter registration in the laundromat. My mother is also a retired teacher. She conducts school in the laundromat. While the moms are washing, she takes their babies and reads with them.”

WE ARE THE PEOPLE

The nonprofit also provides rent and utility support to mothers in need, while offering training opportunities for women interested in political leadership and youth civic engagement.

Khloe Robinson is a 10th grader who became involved with MS BWR when her mother brought her along to some community cleanup events the group held around Jackson. She’s now part of a youth leadership team that works to help young people understand the power of voting and ensure that when they’re old enough to cast a ballot, they’re motivated to head to the polls.

“We see a lot of politicians who don’t really represent us, that’s why making sure Black people get out and vote is so important,” said Robinson. “Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable is really focused on making Jackson a better place. They really try to get into the community and inform people about what we can do to make this city better.”

The SPLC grant will help MS BWR expand its existing work outside of the Jackson metro area, to conduct surveys and polling, and to continue voting rights and youth engagement work year-round. One of the group’s aims is to increase participation in down-ballot elections that have a pronounced impact on local communities.

“We are thrilled about this grant,” Welchlin said. “So often, small nonprofits don’t get the recognition, don’t get the dollars. Yet we’re the ones that are closest to the people. We are the people; our families are the people. So, this is personal. We still haven’t gotten to where we want to, but we’ve grown so much. This means a lot.”

Here’s a look at Mississippi’s other Vote Your Voice grant recipients and how they plan to use this funding to strengthen democracy:

CHILDREN’S DEFENSE FUND – GRANT AMOUNT: $300,000

The Children’s Defense Fund works to level the playing field for all children by advocating for policies that improve their lives and by creating community partnerships and programs to empower children and their families – with a particular focus on the needs of children in families with low incomes, children of color and children with disabilities. Through this $300,000 grant, the organization aims to boost civic engagement, voter education, registration and mobilization among young people, returning citizens, individuals purged from voter rolls and sporadic voters by hosting community workshops and forums; door-to-door canvassing; a targeted issued-based communications campaign; and digital engagement.

MISSISSIPPI CENTER FOR REENTRY – GRANT AMOUNT: $50,000

The Mississippi Center for Reentry provides life skills and job training, GED education, career planning and job placement assistance to formerly incarcerated people to assist them in reentering society. Since 2022, the group has provided voter education and held registration drives in Mississippi prisons, educating more than 400 individuals and assisting more than 150 currently incarcerated people in completing voter registration applications. Through this grant, the organization aims to increase civic engagement among formerly incarcerated Mississippians of color in nonmetro areas and to advocate for policy change within the corrections system.

MISSISSIPPI STATE CONFERENCE NAACP – GRANT AMOUNT: $495,000

The Mississippi State Conference NAACP is a chapter of the historic civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Since 1909, its mission has been to eliminate racial discrimination and ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of all people. Since 2012, the Mississippi State Conference NAACP has registered more than 50,000 new voters. With this grant, it seeks to increase the voting participation rates of Black people throughout the state by increasing knowledge and awareness on issues impacting the community such as health care access and Medicaid expansion, minimum wage, and criminal justice reform.

PARENTS’ CAMPAIGN RESEARCH AND EDUCATION FUND – GRANT AMOUNT: $330,000

The Parents’ Campaign Research and Education Fund is an alliance of moms, dads, grandparents, teachers, community leaders and citizens who advocate for Mississippi’s public school students. The organization provides objective research and analysis of public education policies and legislation to state leaders, policymakers and the public. With this SPLC grant, the organization aims to mobilize Mississippi public school supporters in critical elections and to engage and coach local advocates to become agents of civic change who can directly influence leaders and institutions that determine the quality of their children’s education and economic and civic opportunities. The group will be particularly focused on engaging communities of color, rural communities, young and single parents, and low-wealth households.

WE MUST VOTE – GRANT AMOUNT: $150,000

We Must Vote is a voter mobilization organization created to help people understand the power of their vote by providing education, registration and transportation assistance to underserved communities and people who have rarely or never voted. Over the last several years, it has registered more than 21,000 voters and assisted 255 formerly incarcerated people in restoring their voting rights. With the grant, We Must Vote aims to increase voter turnout among Black citizens in rural communities who have limited access to resources, through targeted campaigns, door-to-door canvassing and voting rights restoration efforts.

ONE VOICE – GRANT AMOUNT: $400,000

One Voice is a nonprofit working to democratize public policy in Mississippi. The organization advocates for the representation of historically silenced communities in spaces of power and works with communities to increase their awareness and capacity to create change and build power. With this SPLC grant, One Voice will work to expand voting rights in the state, push back against voter suppression laws and increase civic engagement among young Latinx voters in rural areas.

MISSISSIPPI VOTES – GRANT AMOUNT: $500,000

Mississippi Votes is a youth-led intergenerational organization invested in moving Mississippi forward through outreach that empowers young people, encourages civic engagement and educates communities on voting rights through place-based grassroots organizing. Through this grant, Mississippi Votes will increase its voter registration activities among low-propensity Black and Latinx voters, host youth policy summits, increase its field operations and door-knocking initiatives, and continue to advocate for electoral transparency in state politics.

Sen. Hiram Revels: First African American to Serve in Congress

On this day in 1870, Hiram Rhodes Revels became the first African American to serve in the U.S. Congress. White officials tried to declare his election null and void.

One hundred and fifty-four years ago, on February 25, 1870, visitors in the packed Senate galleries burst into applause as Senator-elect Hiram Revels, a Republican from Mississippi, entered the Chamber to take his oath of office. Those present knew that they were witnessing an event of great historical significance. Revels was about to become the first African American to serve in the United States Congress. Just 22 days earlier, on February 3, the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, prohibiting states from disenfranchising voters “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Revels was indeed “the Fifteenth Amendment in flesh and blood,” as his contemporary, the civil rights activist Wendell Phillips, dubbed him.

Hiram Revels was born a free man in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on September 27, 1827, the son of a Baptist preacher. As a youth, he took lessons at a private school run by an African American woman and eventually traveled north to further his education. He attended seminaries in Indiana and Ohio, becoming a minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1845, and eventually studied theology at Knox College in Illinois. During the turbulent decade of the 1850s, Revels preached to free and enslaved men and women in various states while surreptitiously assisting fugitive slaves.

When the Civil War began in 1861, Revels was serving as a pastor in Baltimore. Before long, he was forming regiments of African American soldiers in Maryland, serving as a Union army chaplain in Mississippi, and establishing schools for freed slaves in Missouri. He settled in Natchez, Mississippi, at war’s end, where he served as presiding elder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1868 he gained his first elected position, as alderman for the town of Natchez. The next year he won election to the state senate, as one of 35 African Americans elected to the Mississippi state legislature that year.

In 2020 Senate Stories, a new Senate history blog, was created. And in recognition of Black History Month, its first blog post celebrated the sesquicentennial of the swearing in of Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African American senator. Read the first full Senate Stories blog on Sen. Revels HERE.