Womanpower Unlimited and the Black Freedom Struggle in Mississippi

Title Details

Pages: 264

Illustrations: 18 b&w photos

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 02/13/2015

ISBN: 9-780-8203-4731-8

List Price: $24.95


Pub Date: 02/15/2015

ISBN: 9-780-8203-4730-1

List Price: $69.95

Womanpower Unlimited and the Black Freedom Struggle in Mississippi

A vital contribution to the often-overlooked history of women as agents of change in the civil rights movement

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  • Reviews

In Womanpower Unlimited and the Black Freedom Struggle in Mississippi, Tiyi M. Morris provides the first comprehensive examination of the Jackson, Mississippi–based women’s organization Womanpower Unlimited. Founded in 1961 by Clarie Collins Harvey, the organization was created initially to provide aid to the Freedom Riders who were unjustly arrested and then tortured in Mississippi jails. Womanpower Unlimited expanded its activism to include programs such as voter registration drives, youth education, and participation in Women Strike for Peace. Womanpower Unlimited proved to be not only a significant organization with regard to civil rights activism in Mississippi but also a spearhead movement for revitalizing black women’s social and political activism in the state.

Womanpower Unlimited elucidates the role that the group played in sustaining the civil rights movement in Mississippi. Consistent with the recent scholarship that emphasizes the necessity of a bottom-up analysis for attaining a more comprehensive narrative of the civil rights movement, this work broadens our understanding of movement history in general by examining the roles of “local people” as well as the leadership women provided. Additionally, it contributes to a better understanding of how the movement developed in Mississippi by examining some of the lesserknown women upon whom activists, both inside and outside of the state, relied. Black women, and Womanpower specifically, were central to movement successes in Mississippi; and Womanpower’s humanist agenda resulted in its having the most diverse agenda of a Mississippi-based civil rights organization.

It is one thing to say that black women were important to the Civil Rights Movement but, in Womanpower Unlimited and the Black Freedom Struggle in Mississippi, Tiyi M. Morris shows us how and why they were important. She expands our understanding of black women’s activism by showing it was much more than just voter registration and direct action campaigns, which dominate both the historiographical interpretations and the current popular conceptions of the movement. Instead, Black women’s activism encompassed the international peace movement, quality of life issues for poor blacks, equality of educational opportunities, work with children, feeding the hungry, and so much more, and it moved well outside the borders of the State of Mississippi. This was not a parochial, limited effort. The scope and impact of Womanpower Unlimited reached from Farish Street in Jackson and the Mississippi Delta to Vermont, Geneva, and beyond. It touched the lives of thousands of people in the few short years it was in existence.

—Robert Luckett, Director, Margaret Walker Center, Jackson State University

Tiyi Morris brings black women’s activism into full view, adding great insight and depth to our understanding of local movement history and the contributions of African American women to it.

—Vicki L. Crawford, Director, Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection

Morris provides much-needed insight into the history of Womanpower Unlimited, a black women’s civil rights organization in Mississippi. By uncovering the history of this organization, the author sheds light not only on local struggles but also on the roles that women played in the civil rights movement more generally.

—L. M. Puaca, Choice

Morris’s account of WU uncovers. . . vital communal work and provides important evidence of black women’s activism, not only in Mississippi but on a global stage. . . . This book is a significant accomplishment, and Morris uncovers an important story with skill, insight, and verve. . . . This engaged and fluent account of the work of WU certainly demonstrates the vital activism of women such as Harvey and her allies.

—Helen Laville, The Journal of American History

Just as the organization itself, Womanpower Unlimited, the book, is a labor of love. Recognizing the invisibility borne by Black women in virtually all spheres of life, but especially with respect to their activism within the patriarchal nature of civil rights historical and contemporary literature, Morris succeeds in claiming space for underexplored movements led by Black women with strictly political orientations.

—Denice D. Nabinett, Spectrum

Tiyi Morris attempt to fill this gap in the scholarship [women’s leadership during the Civil Rights Movement] with Womanpower Unlimited and the Black Freedom Struggle in Mississippi. This is the first comprehensive examination of Womanpower Unlimited (WU), a lesser-known but vitally important women’s political organization formed in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1961.

—Christina Harris, The Journal of African American History

About the Author/Editor

TIYI M. MORRIS is an assistant professor in the Department of African-American and African Studies at Ohio State University.