Womanpower Unlimited and the Black Freedom Struggle in Mississippi
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 expands our understanding of black women’s activism by showing it was much more than just voter registration and direct action campaigns. 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, touching 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
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