Most Freedom Schools were held in unmarked locations such as abandoned buildings, outside landmarks with benches, and even in churches. The women would note a list of resources that the schools needed and upon their return to the South, they would supply the schools with those very items. The work of WIMS extended beyond Freedom Schools as they were also involved in numerous other civil rights projects. Because their operation involved women of busy natures- community leaders, government officers, professionals, etc- Cowan motioned to have these women fly into Jackson on Tuesdays, do their work in immediate areas on Wednesday, and return to the North that Friday.
Successful in their efforts, WIMS eventually became Workshops in Mississippi. Workshops in Mississippi provided women in poverty with specific needs and resources. Projects that stemmed from this coalition are still in operation to this day. Because these women were willing to work together in a way that was foreign to most southerners of that time, their success was paramount in moving the civil rights movement in the winning direction.
Harwell (2010) states that with the unique approach of quietly sending women of stature in interracial, interfaith teams, WIMS reached into the community like the ‘long-handled spoon’ that Clarie Collins Harvey had once envisioned, ‘stir- ring up’ the southern women and bringing them together by opening lines of communication. In so doing, they served as catalysts for change, the ripple effects of which continue to be felt today through those whose lives were touched either directly or indirectly by this program (Harwell, 2010).
Womanpower Unlimited and WIMS hosted a plethora of women who changed the course of social and civil action in the state of Mississippi. Often in collaboration with NCNW and the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) , the groups’ collective efforts produced some of the most successful civil rights programs to date.
The efforts of these women were essential in pushing forth civil rights both locally and nationally. The two groups also hosted a fair share of similarities that may have contributed to quicker results due to the larger numbers. With civil justice in scope, both groups evolved over time, transforming from “underground”, support groups into focused leadership development units employing direct political action. Nevertheless, of all the projects that gave weigh to civil liberty, there is a resounding level of interest that one may contain with the Freedom Summer Project and how its acceleration was an effect of conjoined efforts from women in various regions, not just in the south. According to Levine (2001), Freedom Summer’s main initiatives included: freedom schools and community centers, voter registration on the official state rolls, and a freedom registration plan designed to independently elect a slate of delegates to the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Two Memphis, TN natives, Denise and Mildred (pseudonyms), decided to employ immediate action by joining the project as educators in the Freedom Schools system.
They shared their accounts in anonymity, but also in totality of their experiences leading up to, and thereafter, their roles as teachers to the disenfranchised community of MS. Both ladies were born in the South, Mildred in Mississippi. However, both ladies’ families moved at some point, perhaps due to the menacing climate of the South in that period. Before joining the Freedom Schools project, both women were actively involved with the Civil Rights Movement. During their college years, both ladies found themselves back in the South, Denise as an educator and Mildred as a student. They adorned the campus of Spelman College and city of Atlanta with civil service. Denise was an active member of both the NAACP and SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) while Mildred risked her scholarship and familial relationships by participating in the SNCC. Both narratives provide a sense of power that may only be achieved by studying the accounts of black women who were willing to, and gave their lives to a cause much greater than themselves. Clemons (2014) states: These projects identify the complexities of Black women’s race and gender.
They look at the social construction of race and gender and detail how they together impact Black women’s lives. Ransby (2003) describes how the emergence of women leaders transformed the gender relations within the Black freedom movement. According to Ransby (2003), Black women offered an alternative view of womanhood as a result of radical and transformative pedagogical techniques they employed as organizers in the movement. The stories of Black women educators and students often only focus on a perceived conservative, feminine type of teaching that draws its foundation from early Victorian ideals of morality and womanhood and Black elitism. Seldom, do we see Black women’s pedagogical practices at the center of the discourse of radical or transformative education. These women’s pedagogical practices included more than educational curriculums. Because most children and adults were either misled in their education, having been taught their brains weighed less than a white person’s for example, or not educated at all, the lessons these educators had to employ were not only academic but moral.
Their moral curriculum was just as significant due to the constant, insulting esteem programming inflicted and forced upon black lives. Every day, these ladies incorporated morale building techniques to restore what was lost in the students’ souls. They were striven to not only instill academic knowledge but to transform the perspectives of the downtrodden who did not view themselves as worthy of life, let alone an education. It was because of powerful women like Denise and Mildred who offered those they ameliorated more than something that could be certified with the issuance of a document. Like many others, they reshaped what was perceived to be the image of African Americans in African Americans. Although it may be left to opinion, that is by far the biggest contribution to the Civil Rights Movement that may have been assumed. Although the Civil Rights Movement of Mississippi is now an event of the past, its longstanding effects will forever provide an example of the shift and transformation that women of proficiency can infuse into this world. Philanthropic, radical, innovative, mothering, militant, scholarly, and progressive are but a sample of adjectives that may be used to describe the women who cultivated and organized the Civil Rights Movement.
They made mobilization of every step taken towards freedom possible in an outstanding number of ways due to their “unique to the woman” ways of bringing about change. It goes without saying that the innate characteristics of women may have been the “saving grace” of this movement but it also took the implementation of strategy combined with those very characteristics to provide the results of freedom. Though the presence of women in historical accounts of this time are somehow “lost in the shadows” and overlooked due to the dramatizations of inspirational male figures, the mission they embarked upon for the future generations of their people was met with outstandingly liberating results because of their dedication and bravery. Not only did the women of the Civil Rights Movement work behind the scenes to generate “well-oiled machines” in civil and social combat, but they provided forthright examples as well that could only inspire the women of yesteryear, today, and tomorrow to be a BLACK WOMAN and to be proud.