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288 Annie Devine June 1965, Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party Meeting, Jackson, Mississippi Annie Devine was born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1912 and raised in Canton, Mississippi , by her mother’s sister. She graduated from Tougaloo Southern Christian College (now Tougaloo College) and taught elementary school in the early 1950s in Flora, Mississippi. Married for ten years to Andrew Devine and mother to four children, she also worked for the black-owned Security Life Insurance Company before beginning an active and public career in the civil rights movement. In fact, her work as an insurance agent put Devine in contact with many Madison County blacks, with whom she would later organize in Canton. Devine’s claim to fame in the movement occurred in 1964 and 1965 with the creation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), an insurgent group of primarily black Mississippians who challenged the Democratic party’s racist and exclusionary electoral practices in the state. Created officially in 1964 by the Conference of Federated Organizations (COFO), the short-term aims of the fledgling political party involved increasing black voter registration and an official challenge to the seating of the regular party at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. At that convention, Devine testified to a group of black Democrats that “We have been treated like beasts in Mississippi. They shot us down like animals. We risk our lives coming up here. . . . Politics must be corrupt if it don’t care none about people down there.” Due in part to Devine’s influence, MFDP delegates later rejected the party’s compromise of granting two at-large seats to the MFDP. Just months later, Devine joined friends and fellow activists Victoria Gray and Fannie Lou Hamer in challenging the seating of five white recently elected Mississippi congressmen. That attempt, known as the Mississippi Challenge, catalyzed support across the nation even as it was eventually defeated in September 1965 by a House vote of 228 to 143. But before her fame on a national stage, Annie Devine was instrumental in helping to organize Madison County and her hometown of Canton. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) opened its first Mississippi project headed by George Raymond in Canton in June 1963. After much promise, the project faltered by fall, Annie Devine 289 only to be resuscitated by the efforts of Devine. She got involved thanks to the persistence of Anne Moody, a Tougaloo student whose memoir, Coming of Age in Mississippi, would later be a movement classic. After reluctantly attending a meeting at the Pleasant Green Holiness Church, Devine was threatened with eviction from her home the very next day. “I think I made a decision right there. If I was going to be harassed, be made to move just because I went to a meeting, then I was already in the movement.” Described by one CORE worker as a “country diplomat ,” Devine helped unify disparate points of view among Madison County blacks. Another CORE worker later claimed that without Devine’s diplomacy, there would have been no movement in Canton. Devine remained active in local Mississippi politics and social justice projects well into her eighties. She died on August 22, 2000, survived by two daughters, one son, eight grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren. She makes a posthumous appearance in the acclaimed documentary Standing on My Sister’s Shoulders. In this short but interesting impromptu address before a Jackson audience of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, Devine covers a variety of topics. First, she pointedly calls out Jackson’s civil rights community for the seeming lack of interest in hundreds of youth jailed for protesting the allegedly illegally constituted Mississippi legislature, then meeting in special session. Second, Devine attacks the reason behind the special session, specifically its attempts to circumvent some of the provisions in the soon-to-be enacted Voting Rights Act of 1965. Such attempts, as well as the illegal nature by which the legislature had been elected, serve to underscore the importance of the Mississippi Challenge, which would get a national hearing in less than three months. Finally, Devine forcefully closes her brief remarks by insisting that the movement will in fact move not only in Jackson, but across the entire state. Well, I was feeling alright sitting out in the audience and listening to all the things that have been said tonight. I think it is good for us to see a real, live Negro representative, congressman. Some kids came by the FDP office today to tell Mrs...


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