Dorie Ladner

NAACP, SNCC, 1961-68, Mississippi

In Memory of Mattie Bivens & George Greene

I grew up in Hattiesburg MS. When I was 14, Emmett Till was murdered in August of 1955. He was just one year older than I was. I was enraged, but I did not know what to do with that anger. His murder made me aware of my blackness.

After graduating high school, I went to Jackson State College. As a freshman, I began attending NAACP meetings with Medgar Evers and in March of 1961, my sister and I helped organize protests in support of the Tougaloo Nine who had been arrested for attempting to use the white-only Jackson public library. We were both expelled, and the next semester we transferred to Tougaloo College.

Later in 1961, Colia Lidell and I, two Black women, joined the Freedom Riders in Jackson and remained with the Movement in Mississippi along with other Freedom Riders such as James Bevel, Diane Nash, Paul and Catherine Brooks, Lester McKinney, Bernard Lafayette, Tim Jenkins, and others. She and I were drawn to be Freedom Riders because they had brought us a message that I had been searching for all my life since the death of Emmett Till. So we started attending meetings with the Freedom Riders who had begun to teach nonviolence, civil disobedience, and community organizing.

In the Fall of 1961, Colia and I and others helped build the North Jackson NAACP Youth Council which became very active. In 1962 I was arrested for sitting at a Woolworth lunch counter. Colia and I were seasoned Black women who had been exposed to racism. We had committed ourselves to building communities free from racial oppression, gender restrictions, disenfranchisement, and economic exploitation.

Later that year, I took part in founding the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) along with Amzie Moore, Aaron Henry, Colia Liddell, Medgar Evers, Bob Moses, James Forman, Dave Dennis, and others. After the meeting, Mattie Bivens, Colia Liddell, and I were riding in a car driven by Dave. The police stopped us for violating the town's "Sundown Law" which required Blacks to be off the streets after a certain hour. Dave was arrested, and we were all ordered to "Get out of Clarksdale." Lester McKinney took over driving the car. We took refuge in Amzie Moore's small home where we stayed.

That same year I started working full-time with SNCC on voter registration and community organizing projects in the Mississippi Delta, and staffing the COFO office in Jackson. Due to cramped quarters, we shared sleeping arrangements, male and female, wherever we could find a place to lay our weary heads. And sometimes we returned bottles for food money, we shared the food purchases no matter how small or large. We shared the organizing work and canvassing the communities for mass meetings to hear concerns from the people. We were a Band of Brothers and Sisters. We were for the most part, well received. My Emmett Till pain from years before began to heal. I was working on issues that needed to be changed.

In early 1964, I participated in the Hattiesburg Freedom Day. Later that year I became one of the SNCC organizers in Natchez MS and I eventually became project director. I continued to work there until 1966.

In later years I participated in the Selma to Montgomery March of 1965 and the Poor Peoples Campaign of 1968.


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