Growing up in Portland, Oregon, I was in college when I went to Nashville, TN (summer of 1963) to participate in a Voter Registration Project with other college students. I was arrested in connection with that project, which only increased my commitment to civil rights.
After graduating from college, I went to Hattiesburg and Palmer's Crossing, MS (Summer 1964) as a Freedom Summer volunteer, mainly doing community center/adult literacy work.
Wanting to continue civil rights work in Mississippi, I moved to Shaw, MS (fall 1964 - summer 1965) as a SNCC Project Director, involved in voter registration, the Freedom Democratic Party (FDP), mass meetings, Freedom Schools, demonstrations, restaurants, and the initiation and leadership of the Mississippi Freedom Labor Union (MFLU).
The MFLU was mainly a union of people who worked in the cotton fields. The union spread to several Mississippi counties and a few other southern states. It became one of the inspirations for the United Farm Workers Union in California. When the union grew strong, held a strike and other actions, the plantation owners increased their harassment of those involved. My life was threatened and I was jailed five times.
In Shaw, I also met my future husband, Mr. Eddie Short, a local Shaw activist on SNCC staff. It was illegal for us to get married then in Mississippi, since he's African American and I'm white, but we married in Wisconsin in 1966, have a family and are still married.
My Mississippi experiences have had a huge impact on my life. In employment and as a mom, I found that there were always ways to have a positive influence for justice. Involvements included being elected to a public school board, teaching nursery school and English-as-a-Second-Language classes, leadership in anti-poverty programs, impacting hiring decisions, nonprofit management, and being part of a team that started a major non-profit organization.
It's still true that each person can do something to work towards racial and other justice. When we work together, the results don't just add up — they multiply.
My husband and I have been giving speeches about our civil rights actions because it's important for people to understand what Mississippi was like then, how people who are not famous can make a difference for justice and some of what actually took place in the Movement.
A book entitled A Small Town Rises, by Lee Anna Sherman, has been published about my husband's and my civil rights movement actions with the courageous people of Shaw, Mississippi. It's available through bookstores and on www.Amazon.com.