Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-x

Abbreviations in the Text

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pp. xi-xiv

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Introduction

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pp. 1-11

When Gulfport civil rights activist Sammie Lee Gray-Wiseman finally had the chance to meet Dr. Dorothy Height, the president of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW, or council), she was excited. It was 1967, and Gray-Wiseman had been working on a new council project to institute a low-income home ownership program in North Gulfport, Mississippi. ...

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Chapter One. Maneuvering for the Movement: The World of Broker Politics in the NCNW, 1935–1963

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pp. 12-36

In February 1960, the nation was riveted as students across the South protested Jim Crow through a series of defiant sit-ins at local restaurants. Two months later, Ella Baker called these same students to a conference at Shaw University, where they formed SNCC—one of the most effective civil rights organizations of the 1960s. Half a year later, another conference drew together black youth, ...

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Chapter Two. Creating a Ministry of Presence: Setting Up an Interracial Civil Rights Organization, 1963–1964

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pp. 37-55

The young activists’ imprisonment in Selma provided a devastating but important opportunity for Height and the national NCNW to become more directly involved in the civil rights movement while still focusing on women and children. But Height was the ultimate strategist. Having worked in the worlds of Christian and white philanthropic organizations, she decided to ...

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Chapter Three. High Heels on the Ground: The Power of Personal Witness, 1964

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pp. 56-79

As Boston civil rights leader Ruth Batson sat in a planning meeting with other members of the newly formed civil rights organization Wednesdays in Mississippi (WIMS), she pondered whether to take part in their Mississippi project. While SNCC was committed to fighting white supremacy publicly during Freedom Summer, WIMS seemed more concerned with making white ...

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Chapter Four. We Have, Happily, Gone beyond the Chitchat over Tea Cups Stage: Moving beyond Dialogue, 1965–1966

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pp. 80-102

Following Freedom Summer, black Mississippians challenged white supremacy more directly than ever before. The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which had registered hundreds of voters in 1964, leveled the strongest attack. That August, the group sent a delegation of sixty-four black and four white delegates to challenge the legitimacy of the all-white Mississippi ...

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Chapter Five. You Know about What It’s Like to Need a Good House: The Changing Face of the Expert, 1966–1970

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pp. 103-127

On November 18, 1966, Unita Blackwell, a SNCC, CDGM, and MFDP leader, sat in the conference room at the Jackson, Mississippi, Farish Street YWCA building with about sixty other women.1 A representative of the Jackson NCNW and Coleman Miller, head of the social service community section of CDGM, had invited her to come to the Branch Y, which served as the black ...

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Chapter Six. But If You Have a Pig in Your Backyard . . . ​Nobody Can Push You Around: Black Self-Help and Community Survival, 1967–1975

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pp. 128-148

In 1968, Thelma Barnes—a popular black candidate who had served in the Greenville-based Delta Ministry for several years—lost a bid for Congress to Thomas Abernethy, a known segregationist. Later, Dorothy Height asked Fannie Lou Hamer how Barnes had lost even in Washington County, which had a 70 percent black electorate. Hamer pointed out that some black residents ...

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Chapter Seven. The Power of Four Million Women: Growing the Council, 1967–1980

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pp. 149-176

On July 10, 1974, after sixteen long years of fund-raising efforts, the NCNW successfully unveiled a twelve-foot-tall bronze figure of founder Mary McLeod Bethune in Lincoln Park, Washington, D.C. This was the first memorial of either an African American or a female leader on public land in the nation’s capital.1 The council wanted the statue of Bethune to stand opposite ...

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Chapter Eight. Mississippi, Who Has Been the Taillight, Can Now Be the Headlight: The Council’s International Work, 1975–1985

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pp. 177-202

As one of the most powerful African American women representing the United States at the United Nations World Conference on Women in Copenhagen in July  1980, Dorothy Height believed that she could play a major role in sensitizing Western feminists to the needs of women of color around the world. Together with fellow U.S. delegates Alexis Herman, ...

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Conclusion

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pp. 203-210

In July 1983, President Ronald Reagan became the first president to honor the National Council of Negro Women as an organization at the White House. Within a few months of Reagan taking office in 1981, he had “proceeded to perform radical surgery on the American economy and welfare system,” working with Congress to cut $25 billion from welfare programs. ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 211-214

No book can ever be written alone. I am greatly indebted to a wide variety of sponsors, scholars, community activists, friends, and family members.
First, a thank-you to all the women and men whose words and stories fill this book. Thank you to Dorothy Irene Height, Merble Reagon, Doris Dozier Crenshaw, Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, Bettye Collier-Thomas, Unita Blackwell, ...

Appendix 1. 1964 Wednesdays in Mississippi Participants

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pp. 215-218

Appendix 2. 1965 Wednesdays in Mississippi Participants

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pp. 219-222

Appendix 3. Project Womanpower Staff

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pp. 223-224

Appendix 4. NCNW International Seminar

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pp. 225-226

Notes

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pp. 227-276

Bibliography

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pp. 277-300

Index

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pp. 301-314

Photographs

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