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CLA JOURNAL 139 138 CLA JOURNAL Book Reviews Crystal R. Sanders. A Chance for Change: Head Start and Mississippi’s Black Freedom Struggle.Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,2016.266 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4696-2780-9. Paperback. $27.95. In March 2016, the Congressional Caucus for Black Women and Girls was formed by three black women, U.S. Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Robin Kelly (D-IL), and Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY). Described as a group designed to create public policy that“eliminates significant barriers and disparities experienced by black women”(Workneh), the creation of this forum—which is the first congressional caucus that specifically prioritizes the concerns of black women and girls—extends the tradition of black women pulling together their resources (including resources from the federal government) to speak up for themselves and out against social injustices, to right their experiences into existence, and to create better lives for themselves and for their children. While the Congressional Caucus for Black Women and Girls is a present-day exampleof howblackwomenpoliticallymobilizeandorganizefortheadvancement of black lives, the concept of fighting for a seat at the table is not new for black women in this country. Crystal R. Sanders’s A Chance for Change: Head Start and Mississippi’s Black Freedom Struggle (2016) is a well-developed testament to this argument, as it examines how poor and working-class black women are largely responsible for the creation and maintenance of the Child Development Group of Mississippi’s (CDGM) Head Start program, a federally sponsored initiative designed to educate economically disadvantaged black children and provide financial and leadership opportunities for black Mississippians. Considered a “communigarten” educational system (as opposed to a kindergarten) by the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), the CDGM construction of Head Start was a direct response to the inadequate, underfunded, and segregated public school system that black Mississippi schoolchildren had to attend.As an alternative to this racist educational environment, local black Mississippians, many of whom were black women, partnered with OEO officials and liberal whites to secure federal funding that would provide black Mississippians with essential needs of survival like childhood education, medical treatment, and access to healthy food. Beginning in the summer of 1965, the CDGM Head Start curriculum included many of the pedagogical strategies implemented in freedom schools across Mississippi during the Freedom Summer campaign of 1964. Since many of the black women employed by the CDGM Head Start program were not formally educated or professionally trained for the teaching positions in which they worked, A Chance for Change disrupts traditional narratives of who can produce and share knowledge with others. By drawing from the personal accounts of thousands of CDGM women, Sanders’s use of oral histories, personal interviews, and archival Book Reviews research illustrates how these women, through sharing their knowledge of the movement and their desire to create a more equitable and democratic society with Head Start youth, were pivotal to the day-to-day tasks of the Mississippi freedom struggle—a significant strength of the book that adds to the historiography of black women of the Civil Rights Movement. Although Sanders notes that former SNCC activists, civil rights historians, and perhaps others might disagree with her contention that CDGM’s Head Start program was a revolutionary contribution to the black freedom struggle in Mississippi since it was primarily funded by an arguably racist and suppressive federal government, Sanders cautions any doubters not to “confuse a change in tactics with the disappearance of activism” (8). By assisting with a federal antipoverty Head Start program, Sanders argues that these black women “balanced principle with political realities and brought about some meaningful changes in their everyday lives;” they showed that radical protest could occur through federal programming, and that one could work within the system to dismantle the system (8). A Chance for Change consists of five chapters. In Chapter One, “Reading is Power,” Sanders argues that “Education has always been political in Mississippi” to establish the foundation of her project (11). From white taxpayers refusing to support black education to violent and nonviolent practices of the Citizens’ Council to prevent black Mississippians from challenging social inequalities, Sanders asserts that the fight...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2766-0265
Print ISSN
0007-8549
Pages
pp. 138-141
Launched on MUSE
2021-01-01
Open Access
No
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