Preschool Politics: Mississippi's Black Freedom Struggle and a Radical Head Start
Nov 17, 2015
from 03:30 PM to 05:00 PM
|Where||216 Willard Building|
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Crystal R. Sanders
Assistant Professor of African American Studies and History
After the ink dried on the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, citizens across America—in rural and urban areas—continued their quest for full freedom. For black Mississippians, full freedom included the enforcement of civil rights legislation, the chance to earn a decent wage, the opportunity to participate in community governance, and access to quality education. Leaving the cotton fields of Mississippi, black women created the Child Development Group of Mississippi (CDGM) in 1965, the largest inaugural Head Start program in the country. Between 1965 and 1968, CDGM operated nearly 100 Head Start centers in 24 counties. The program provided poor black children with early childhood education and it offered working-class black women high-paying jobs independent of the local white power structure. In a lecture titled “Preschool Politics,” Professor Sanders articulates how CDGM, a federal program for low-income preschoolers, produced a political battle between poor black mothers and grandmothers and white southern congressmen. Professor Sanders asserts that preschool education became controversial as Mississippi’s black working-class participants collaborated with the federal government and moved beyond teaching shapes and colors to challenge the state’s racially exploitative social practices, repressive political policies, and white supremacy ideology.