Vernon F. Dahmer: Civil Rights Martyr and American Hero

2016-01-09 21:22:31

These remarks were prepared by sociologist and SNCC veteran Joyce Ladner for a commemoration of Vernon Dahmer on January 8, 2016, hosted by the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.

By Joyce Ladner

Dahmer_VernonI want to thank the Dahmer family, particularly Ellie Dahmer and the Dahmer children who had to find ways to go on after his life was cut short. They kept his life and legacy in the forefront of our minds. They ensured that those who took his life were prosecuted. I also want to thank Jerry Mitchell, Clarion Ledger investigative reporter, who played a key role in the conviction of the Ku Klux Klan imperial wizard Sam Bowers who ordered the fatal firebombing of the Dahmer family.

January 10, 2016 will mark the 50th anniversary of the murder of civil rights martyr and American hero, Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer. He was a civil rights leader, community leader, and businessman in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. In the early hours of January 10, 1966, members of the Ku Klux Klan shot into and firebombed the home he shared with his wife and children in the Kelly Settlement section of Hattiesburg. It occurred soon after he announced on local radio that he would accept poll taxes at his grocery store and take them to the Forrest County Voting Registrar, Theron Lynd. He offered to pay the poll taxes for those who could not afford them. In doing so, he was going up against the formidable Lynd, who had a reputation for failing most blacks on the literacy test when they tried to register to vote. I was a college senior when I “failed” the literacy test in 1964.


Registrar Theron Lynd (right) finds one way or another to "fail" the Black applicants. Freedom Day, January 22, 1964, Hattiesburg.

Registrar Theron Lynd (right) finds one way or another to “fail” the Black applicants. Freedom Day, January 22, 1964, Hattiesburg. By Winifred Moncrief, from the MDAH.

I will never forget the 6 A.M. call to my St. Louis apartment from my mother back in Hattiesburg who told me that the Ku Klux Klan had torched the Dahmer home and store to the ground and that Mr. Dahmer was in critical condition. Her next call later that day was to tell me he had died. His murder caused me to have a loss of innocence because I was reminded that the civil rights struggle could still cause the unleashing of the most virulent racial violence against activists. I could not understand how he had survived for so long when others like Rev. George Lee, Emmett TillMedgar Evers, Herbert Lee, Clyde KennardLouis Allen, Mack Charles Parker, the three civil rights workers (two of whom I knew), and others had died. I always saw Mr. Dahmer as a big bear of a man who was courageous, outspoken, and indestructible. How could they kill him too? I thought the most violent era of the Civil Rights Movement had passed. But his murder let me know that it hadn’t.

Mr. Dahmer was president of the Hattiesburg NAACP chapter and led local and statewide voter registration campaigns at a time when one signed a death warrant by doing so. His mantra was, “If you don’t vote, you don’t count.” He was well known to Sam Bowers, the Ku Klux Klan leader in the area who ordered his murder. For a long time Vernon and Ellie took turns sleeping so that one could be awake if their home was attacked. However, they had stopped guarding their home shortly before the Klan attacked. That night at around 2 A.M., Molotov cocktails and gunfire were shot into the Dahmer home. Vernon helped Ellie and their young daughter and sons get out of the house through the windows. Then he went back into the house that was in flames and shot at his assailants to give his family time to find cover. His elderly aunt who lived in the family grocery store next door managed to get out safely as it also erupted in flames.

It was Vernon Dahmer’s courageous trip back inside the flaming house that was fatal. He was only fifty-eight years old. Four of his six sons, who were serving their country in the United States military, arrived home in time for the funeral to grieve for their father, the ultimate patriot, and to help to pick up the pieces from the devastating psychological, emotional, economic, political and family carnage the Klan caused.

Four sons of Vernon Dahmer, who were serving in the armed forces at the time. Photo by Chris McNair

Four of Vernon Dahmer’s sons, who were serving in the armed forces at the time of his murder, observe the family home burned to the ground. (Six of his seven sons served 78 years in the military). Photo by Chris McNair, courtesy of Jerry Mitchell.

In his short fifty-eight years, Dahmer launched voter registration drives, and adhered to the philosophy that it was his responsibility to be his brother and sister’s keeper. Perhaps it was also his economic independence that made him a target for the Ku Klux Klan. He annexed large tracts of land, built a commercial farm of cotton, owned a sawmill, a planer mill, and a grocery store. He hired his Black neighbors from Kelley Settlement to work for him, thereby carrying out his philosophy of being a good neighbor. This was largely unheard of in the fifties and sixties because very few Black people owned businesses. The jobs he provided reduced Black flight to northern cities and strengthened the local community. Vernon Dahmer was a generous man who believed in the power of a united community. He was also a leader in the Shady Grove Baptist Church as leader of the choir and Sunday school Superintendent.


Joyce Ladner, Tougaloo College.

I met the man I still call “Mr. Dahmer” when I was in my early teenage years. His sister, Eileen Beard, was a member of our church and she and my mother were best friends. She invited my sister, Dorie, and me to go with her and her husband Kenneth, their neighbor civil rights activist Clyde Kennard, and her brother, Vernon Dahmer to several statewide NAACP meetings in Jackson. As we rode up the old two-lane Highway 49, they talked about the importance of finding ways to get Negroes registered to vote. For Mr. Dahmer, voting was the only way to move from second class to full citizenship. I was spellbound as I listened to them talk about a subject that was so verboten that one could be killed for it. You see, this was the late 1950’s when the NAACP was outlawed in Mississippi. These were extremely dangerous times.

When we arrived in Jackson, I surveyed the large number of cars and trucks bearing license plates from throughout Mississippi. I couldn’t help but wonder if the white people would soon learn the names of those who attended these meetings. The police wrote down the tag numbers of all the vehicles and made sure that the police in each town knew who was present at the meeting. It led to attendees being fired from their jobs and violent harassment. This can be confirmed by perusing the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission records. I worried if the Hattiesburg police were going to have my father fired from his job. The harassment did not intimidate Mr. Dahmer, the Beards, or Clyde Kennard because they were determined to forge ahead in the uphill struggle for civil rights.

Shetterly Clyde Kennard _9-13_kw04523Those rides to and from the mass meetings in Jackson had a deep effect on me. Although I had a strong racial consciousness from the time I was a young child, meeting Vernon Dahmer and Clyde Kennard strengthened my desire to find ways to help my people take a stand against racial discrimination.

That time came in 1958 when Mr. Dahmer and Clyde Kennard invited Medgar Evers to Hattiesburg where they organized a Hattiesburg NAACP Youth Chapter. Teenagers from throughout the area came together at True Light Baptist Church to meet Evers, who was already a civil rights legend. Mr. Dahmer also invited Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) members Hollis Watkins and Curtis Hayes (Muhammad) to Hattiesburg in the early 1960s to stay at the family’s farm and do voter registration organizing. These acts of courage launched a new generation of young people who were poised to strike a blow against segregation and discrimination. This would not have occurred had it not been for Vernon Dahmer.

Ellie Dahmer with photo of her husband. From the Clarion Ledger.

Ellie Dahmer with photo of her husband. From the Clarion Ledger.

Dahmer’s contributions to the civil rights movement were substantial. He was dedicated to the proposition that everyone should have the right to vote, irrespective of his or her race or social standing. He was courageous at a time when courage was in short supply. He helped to lay the groundwork for the protracted civil rights movement that officially came to Mississippi with the arrival of the Freedom Riders in 1961. Most of all, he paid the ultimate price for the cause of civil rights by giving his life.

While Dahmer never had the chance to vote, his impact was evident when Ellie Dahmer was elected in 1992 to serve as the election commissioner. She served for more than a decade in the same district where her husband had been killed.

Today, we celebrate the life of Vernon Dahmer, without whose sacrifice fifty years ago there would be no Black legislators, desegregated schools, or a large Black professional class throughout the state. It is on the shoulders of Vernon Dahmer that young people continue to organize today for justice for all.

Further Reading

Profiles of Vernon Dahmer on the One Person, One Vote and websites.

A chapter on Vernon Dahmer in Count Them One by One: Black Mississippians Fighting for the Right to Vote by Gordon A. Martin Jr.

The Journey to Justice blog by Jerry Mitchell, whose investigative journalism played a key role in the convictions of Klan Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers for ordering the fatal firebombing.

Oral history interview with Ellie Dahmer, conducted in 1974. Available at the USM Digital Collections.

For images, visit the Moncrief photo collection at the MDAH.

Tagged in: mississippi

Mississippi Teacher Fellows Host Workshops Across the State

2015-09-27 03:03:05
Raymond Brookter

Raymond Brookter

“I want to bring these lessons on teaching about the Civil Rights Movement to teachers in my school district.”

Raymond Brookter’s sentiment was echoed by all the participants in our summer institute for Mississippi teacher fellows.

On top of their full course load, these teachers rolled up their sleeves and made that vision a reality.

In early September, teacher fellows in Kosciusko, Laurel, and Hattiesburg organized full-day workshops for teachers and/or students in their respective school districts. Teachers in Harrison, Hinds, Marion, Benton, and Sunflower counties hosted sessions at the end of the month.

At the launch of the teacher fellowship, SNCC veteran Hollis Watkins urged the project partners to “make sure that we spread the work out so that we have a lot of hands on the plow.” The teachers (who had the honor of meeting Watkins this summer) took that advice to heart. Rather than simply bringing lessons on the Civil Rights Movement to their own classrooms, they are introducing the Mississippi history and interactive pedagogy to their peers.

Teaching for Change is assisting the teacher fellows with planning and implementation of this district based outreach. Mississippi teacher fellowship project director Julian Hipkins III traveled to each of the districts to conduct workshops. Here are highlights from the sessions.


Hipkins with teachers from Kosciusko High School.

Teacher fellows Jessica Dickens and Glendolyn Crowell made arrangements for a full day of professional development for the Kosciusko social studies department. They invited Hipkins to facilitate interactive lessons on Mississippi history and opportunities for reflection. The lessons included a gallery walk on the history of race and education in Mississippi and a meet and greet activity about the southern freedom movement. The response was enthusiastic:

Fantastic, energizing, refreshing…..great strategies and tactics to use in the classroom.

The day was a perfect balance between content, pedagogy, self reflection, and conversation. At no point was I bored or ready to leave like many professional development sessions.

This was a really great seminar. Probably the best I’ve been to in 22 years of teaching.

Jones County teacher fellow Raymond Brookter arranged for a day of lessons to expose students to the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement in the library of Laurel High School. Using the meet and greet activity about the southern freedom movement, students were each assigned the role of a Mississippi activist. Individuals such as Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and Medgar Evers were brought to life as students donned name tags with images of their historical figure and met others involved in the freedom struggle. Students also had an opportunity to take part in the gallery walk on the history of race and education in Mississippi. This led them to share stories and insights about their own schooling. “Have the textbooks really changed?” asked one student.

Throughout the day, approximately 200 students participated in the lessons. “Thank you for sharing this history with us,” one student said. Another added, “I have never heard of these people before. We don’t learn, see, or hear about this part of Black history.”

In Hattiesburg and Jackson, high school students engaged in a gallery walk about the history of education in Mississippi. One student wrote “#BlackEducationMatters” next to an image about the unequal distribution of funds in the state during the early 20th century.
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At Indianola High School, students explored the roots of contemporary wealth inequality with respect to race. Hipkins engaged them in a lesson on the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot when deputized whites killed more than 300 African Americans and destroyed the thriving community known as Black Wall Street.

In a human geography class at Gulfport Central Middle School, Hipkins made a world history connection to the Civil Rights Movement with an interactive lesson on the legacy of colonialism in the Congo. Reflecting on the current conflict and who is responsible, one student asked, “What is our responsibility as consumers?”


Journalism students at Murrah High School in Jackson examined historic Mississippi cases related to race and the media. They were shocked to see that the role of the media had been to suppress, rather than share, news about civil rights movement activism.

To bring these issues to an African American Literature class, Hipkins had the students read children’s picture books about the Civil Rights Movement. The students (in Benton County) were asked to critique the books based on content, illustrations, and overall impact. This led to a rich discussion about the appropriate age for young people to learn about racism.

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In most of the school districts, administrators as well as teachers observed the classes and shared their enthusiasm. In Harrison County, Superintendent Glen East left a note for teacher fellow Cristina Tosto:

Ms. Tosto, What you are doing today is tremendously important in our Democratic society. You are providing a great compass for your students. Glen East

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In Attala, Harrison, Hinds, Jones, and Marion counties, the teacher fellows also scheduled professional development sessions to introduce their colleagues to this content and pedagogy.

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The fellowship program is still open for Mississippi teachers who would like to apply. This work is made possible by grants from the Kellogg Foundation and the Open Society Foundations and guidance from our project partners.

There are more photos from the sessions in first three school districts here and the next five districts here.

Tagged in: HattiesburgKosciuskoLarelmississippi

High School Students Produce Award-Winning Film on Ella Baker

2015-06-19 04:26:27

b4s_baker011909_53331a_8col-300x300“The most powerful person in the struggle for civil rights in of the 1960s was Miss Ella Baker, not Martin Luther King,” said Stokely Carmichael.

Two St. Paul, Minnesota high school students—Siena Leone-Getten and Paying Lor—decided to learn more about this influential woman who remains so hidden in history.

Not only did they research her life history, they also produced a well-researched ten minute documentary on Baker that can be used to raise awareness about her decades of activism and her philosophy.

Leone-Getten and Lor’s film, Ella Baker: A Legacy of Grassroots Leadership, won first place in the senior group documentary category for the 2015 National History Day (NHD) competition. It can now be viewed and shared online.

Watching the film, it is evident that Leone-Getten and Lor did extensive research. They started with books and primary documents at the library and then conducted numerous interviews. Here, in their own words, is a summary of their interviews and production process.

Our first interview was with Julian Bond, a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who worked closely with Baker. We also spoke with these SNCC members who worked alongside Baker: Hollis Watkins, Judy Richardson, Dorothy Zellner, Penny Patch, Claire O’Connor, Leslie McLemore, and Connie Curry. We learned about her work with students, her leadership style and how she influenced them as activists. Professor J. Todd Moye, her most recent biographer, explained to us how she organized SNCC and influenced people and organizations with her grassroots leadership. Dr. Shana Redmond, the Ella Baker Visiting Professor at USC, focused on the importance of Baker’s organizing style today. We also spoke with Taylor Branch, who has written extensively about the Civil Rights Movement, and who helped us to understand about the organizational differences that Ms. Baker had with Dr. King. We both have enjoyed creating documentaries. This year, we were able to strengthen our research skills, finding interesting footage, photos and documents. After writing the script, we recorded our voiceover, edited interviews, compiled footage and images, and selected music.

Leone-Getten and Lor’s hard work paid off. They produced an award-winning film that will inspire viewers to learn more about the life and legacy of this remarkable woman.

Tagged in: Ella BakerNHDSNCC

Selma in Kosciusko

2015-04-01 21:14:36


“Women can do just as much as men can when it comes to leadership.” This is just one of the comments made by students in Jessica Dickens’ class in Kosciusko, Mississippi.

Dickens, a teacher the Kosciusko School District and Mississippi Civil Rights movement and Labor History teacher fellow, recently introduced the lesson, Stepping into Selma: Voting Rights History and Legacy Today, to her 10th grade class. Dickens stated:

Jessica DickensThe best part of teaching this activity was to see the students buy in to it so much. It was more than just a brief overview of a time in history. With both the film (Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot) and the role play, students were able to step into the shoes of the characters in Selma. With the movement in Selma being started mainly by teenagers their own age, it was made more relevant to them.

Also, understanding how the government failed to protect the citizens of Selma, we were also able to make connections to events today, such as Ferguson.

Her students shared reflections too.

I enjoyed this lesson because I got a chance to be someone who I have never heard of before. Amelia Boynton was one of the women who led the Civil Rights Movement, specifically in Selma. During the film, I actually got to see some of the brutal beatings that happened in the 60s. In the film, it showed how my character, Amelia Boynton, was shoved by police officers. Some of the things on the film I already knew about, but I also learned about a lot of lesser known people other than Dr. King and Malcolm X. My character in the activity showed me that women can do just as much as men can when it comes to leadership. —Feria M.

I enjoyed this role play activity because I learned details about African Americans who fought and marched for equality and the right to vote. I played Malcolm X in the activity and learned there were many faces to the movement in Selma. To learn the hardships that black people went through inspires me to do the best that I can with the rights I have now. —DeVontaye S.

I enjoyed playing the role of John Lewis. I learned how bad Bloody Sunday really was. I also learned that John Lewis got struck in the head with a billy club and had to be hospitalized. I think it is impressive that he was such a huge part in the movement in Selma and now serves as a U.S. Congressman. The events of the Selma March really opened my eyes to how unjust our country has been in the past. —Blake S.


Teaching About Brown v. Board

2014-05-03 21:09:01

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board decision. Too often marked as the launch of the Civil Rights Movement, it is important to teach about the Supreme Court ruling in the context of the decades long struggle by people across the United States. This anniversary is also a key time to look at the progress that has been made and the inequities that continue today. Here are some lessons (three from Rethinking Schools), books, films, and articles that can be used to teach about Brown v. Board in grades 4-12. 


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Fulfilling the Promise of Brown v. Board

May 13-17, 2014
To mark the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, parents, students, educators and community residents are organizing actions across the country to continue the struggle for racial and educational justice and win the public schools all our children deserve. Teaching for Change is pleased co-sponsor the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools event in Washington, D.C. at Sousa Middle School.



The March on John Philip Sousa: A Social Action Project

by Elizabeth A. Davis
A D.C. public school teacher and her students learn about and fight to preserve the historic role of one of the schools in the Brown v. Board case. 


Warriors Don’t Cry: Brown Comes to Little Rock

by Linda Christensen
A role play exercise brings Melba Pattillo Beals’ classic book about the Little Rock Nine to life for students.


Teaching Brown in Tuscaloosa

by Alison Schmitke
Learning about their community’s civil rights history inspires students to action.


Our Grandparents’ Civil Rights Era

by Willow McCormick
Second graders ask grandparents to write about their experience during the Civil Rights Movement. The letters bring surprising wisdom—and some thought-provoking issues—to the classroom.



brown-v-board-2014-9 brown-v-board-2014-10 brown-v-board-2014-18 brown-v-board-2014-11 brown-v-board-2014-17
Landmark Cases Left Out of Your Textbooks
Mendez v. Westminster: School Desegregation and Mexican-American Rights
Separate is Never Equal
Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America’s Struggle for Equality
Students on Strike: Jim Crow, Civil Rights, Brown, and Me.
brown-v-board-2014-12 brown-v-board-2014-13 brown-v-board-2014-14 brown-v-board-2014-15  brown-v-board-2014-16
Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Senior High
Remember: The Journey to School Integration
Sylvia & Aki
The Lemon Grove Incident
The Road to Brown
brown-v-board-2014-19 brown-v-board-2014-20 brown-v-board-2014-21  brown-v-board-2014-22
Fire from the Rock
The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement
Segregation Now: The Resegregation of America’s Schools
Brown 50 Years Later

Students Awarded for Local Mississippi History Projects

2014-04-15 18:02:23

Front: Peyton Pound, Lili Sagaser, Skylar Culver. Back: Deborah Mordica, Crystal Bush, Jasmine Pullom, Jonathan Franz, Alexis Walton, Madison Lloyd. Photo by Bill McClendon.

On February 22, 2014, the second Local Mississippi History Awards were given at the Mississippi History Day competition at USM-Hattiesburg.

The goal of the award is to deepen student appreciation of and exploration of the untold stories and role of “everyday people” in local Mississippi history, using the National History Day competition as an incentive and a focus for student projects.

Thanks to a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to Teaching for Change, winning entries received $100 for each student or student team.

2014 Award Winners:

Local-History-Award-Winners-2Higher Education in MS. Paper.
Jonathan Franz, Paul Armstrong Middle School

The Game of Change. Website.
Peyton Pound, Gautier Middle School

Bloodshed in Biloxi. Documentary.
Skyler Culver and Lili Sagashar, Gautier Middle School

Emmett Till. Documentary. Crystal Bush and Jasmine Pullom, Pascagoula High School

Integration of Education Forrest County Ag. H/S. Exhibit. Deborah Mordica, Morgan Thornhill and Landon Wa, Forrest County Agricultural High School

Flonzie Brown. Exhibit. Alexis Walton and Madison Lloyd, Pascagoula High School



The judges for the 2014 awards were Jackie Byrd Martin from the William Winter Institute, Lakya Washington from the McComb School District, and Glenda Funchess, veteran of the Civil Rights Movement.

Tagged in: Mississippi History Day

In Their Own Voice: Activists Tell the History of the Civil Rights Movement

2014-04-14 18:07:12

From left: Lawrence Guyot, Ruby Sales, Pete Seeger, Kathleen Cleaver, Junius Williams

The Library of Congress has launched an online collection of oral history interviews with Civil Rights Movement veterans. The interviews were collected and compiled under the Civil Rights History Project Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-19). It was a collaborative effort of the Library of Congress (LOC) and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).

As is explained on the Library of Congress website, “The activists interviewed for this project belong to a wide range of occupations, including lawyers, judges, doctors, farmers, journalists, professors, and musicians, among others. The video recordings of their recollections cover a wide variety of topics within the civil rights movement, such as the influence of the labor movement, nonviolence and self-defense, religious faith, music, and the experiences of young activists. Actions and events discussed in the interviews include the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963), the Albany Movement (1961), the Freedom Rides (1961), the Selma to Montgomery Rights March (1965), the Orangeburg Massacre (1968), sit-ins, voter registration drives in the South, and the murder of fourteen year old Emmett Till in 1955, a horrific event that galvanized many young people into joining the freedom movement.

“Many interviewees were active in national organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Other interviewees were key members of specialized and local groups including the Medical Committee for Human Rights, the Deacons for Defense and Justice, the Cambridge (Maryland) Nonviolent Action Committee, and the Newark Community Union Project. Several interviews include men and women who were on the front lines of the struggle in places not well-known for their civil rights movement activity such as Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Saint Augustine, Florida; and Bogalusa, Louisiana.”

Visit the Civil Rights History Project to see the interviews and learn more.


Teaching for Change Presents and Learns at the Schomburg Center

2013-10-09 22:16:32

On Monday, July 15, with many hearts still reeling from the announcement of George Zimmerman’s acquittal after killing unarmed African American teenager Trayvon Martin, Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad and Dr. Ernest Morrell addressed dozens of educators in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s Black History 360° Summer Institute. Muhammad and Morrell invited teachers to place the Zimmerman case within a larger historical context and education narrative.

Read the paraphrased remarks and reflections made by Muhammad and Morrell from their conversation titled Critical Literacies: Socially, Culturally, Technologically Relevant Education at Teaching For Change.


Freedom Movement Unsung Hero Clyde Kennard Honored on 50th Anniversary

2013-10-08 22:20:19

Korean War veteran Clyde Kennard wrote eloquent letters about the need for desegregation and his right to attend Mississippi Southern College (now the University of Southern Mississippi) in the 1950s. Instead of being admitted, the state of Mississippi framed him on criminal charges for a petty crime and sentenced him to seven years of hard labor at Parchman Penitentiary.

Read more about Clyde Kennard and his 50th anniversary at Teaching For Change.


First Local Mississippi History Award Winners

2013-02-26 19:19:07

On Feb. 23 2013, the first Local Mississippi History Awards were given at the Mississippi History Day competition at USM-Hattiesburg.

The goal of the award is to deepen student appreciation of and exploration of the untold stories and role of “everyday people” in local Mississippi history, using the National History Day competition as an incentive and a focus for student projects.


Teaching about 1963: Civil Rights Movement History

2012-10-26 22:52:11
The year 1963 was pivotal to the modern Civil Rights Movement. It is often recalled as the year of the March on Washington, but much more transpired. It was a year dedicated to direct action and voter registration and punctuated by moments of political theater and acts of violence. To support teaching about 1963 events, we describe here some of the key events and milestones in the Movement. Where possible we list recommended books, primary documents, film, and articles for learning more. Key among those resources is the Civil Rights Movement Veterans ( website, a rich repository of documents, photos, oral histories, audio clips, and other resources created and maintained those who worked on the front lines of the freedom struggle.

McComb, Mississippi Students Take Civil Rights Movement History Tour

2011-11-20 14:14:39


“You read about it and you have it for a minute and then you lose it. When you experience it hands-on it stays with you forever,” said sophomore Sabrina Mays about the 3-day Civil Rights Movement tour in May of 2011 for 44 middle and high school students from McComb, Miss. The video above shows highlights of the tour and you can hear from the students themselves about what they learned.

Students spent the first day in Jackson, Miss., at the Freedom Riders’ Reunion where they met many veterans including Hollis Watkins. Watkins was one of the central figures in the Civil Rights Movement in McComb and continues to be very active today throughout the state in his work with Southern Echo. On the second day in Philadelphia, Miss. they met the town’s first black mayor, James Young (in photo with students) and visited historic sites. On the last day they toured the National Civil Rights Museum and the Cotton Museum in Memphis, Tenn.

Hollis Watkins

Sabrina Mays also had this to say about meeting with veterans: “It is just not the same as reading a book or looking on the internet. When you sit down and you look in these people’s eyes, you have a connection. This is the best way to learn by talking to people that have been through it.”

Students attended the dedication and unveiling of the Mississippi Freedom Trail Marker at the Medgar Evers Home Museum. Randall Wanzo, a sophomore, commented, “When he took off the cover for the plaque, it felt like a historic moment.”

Funding for the tour and the video was provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Read more about the tour in an article on the McComb students developed website, in an article by Assistant Project Director Gloria Stubbs here.


Teaching Tolerance Honors Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching

2011-05-21 15:00:15

The teaching guide Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching was chosen by Teaching Tolerance as one of the best professional development resources for teachers wishing to introduce students to a more accurate portrayal of the Civil Rights Movement.

For 20 years, the Teaching Tolerance staff have reviewed and recommended culturally aware literature and anti-bias resources to educators.

We are deeply honored that Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching (published by Teaching for Change and PRRAC) was selected by Teaching Tolerance staff as one of the top 20 titles from the last two decades that is an “enduring classic.”

Teaching Tolerance was founded by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1991 to “to reduce prejudice, improve intergroup relations, and support equitable school experiences for our nation’s children.”

Read the full story in Staff Picks: Our favorites over the years from the 20th anniversary issue of Teaching Tolerance.