Black History: Special Delivery!!
Wednesday in Mississippi (WIMS) is believed to be the only civil rights project run exclusively by a national women’s organization. The concept for WIMS came from Dorothy Height an African American civil rights activist and President of the National Council on Negro Women, and a close friend Polly Cowan, a white Jewish woman who volunteered with NCNW . WIMS brought black and white women from Northern Cities (including Boston, New York and Chicago) to Mississippi in 1964 during Freedom Summer. On a weekly basis interracial and interfaith teams of women from Northern states (Wednesdays Women) came to Mississippi with supplies and support for rural communities. Local black residents as well as civil rights workers faced the threat of daily violence and harassment as they worked to end segregation and discrimination. The “Wednesdays Women” had the opportunity to experience the impact of racism and injustice first hand.
On Thursdays, “Wednesdays Women” secretly met with black and white women in Mississippi. The meetings usually took place in private homes. In these encounters, southern women shared their fears and concerns regarding the civil rights movement. The meetings had to remain secret because at that time “mixing” with outsiders could have very negative consequences. These meetings were a catalyst for change. In 1966, trainings were also added to the weekly visits. The collaboration resulted in economic, health and educational programs. One such program that is still exists today is the Fannie Lou Hamer Day Care Center.
WIMS operated on the belief that the northern participants’ gender, age, and class would serve as a point of connection to southerners who had rejected other civil rights activists feeling they were too radical. All of the details of the project were painstakingly planned. This included travel plans, safety precautions, as well as how black and WIMS workers would interact with each other.
Even their dress was meticulously planned out. Many of the WIMS participants had never even traveled to the south before. Black and white WIMS participants could not be seen talking to each other publicly and could not lodge together. So they wouldn’t stand out, they were advised to wear white gloves like most women of the South did at the time. If local residents asked, the WIMS participants would say that they were in the city developing a southern cookbook.
Dorothy Height and Peggy Cowan have not received enough recognition for their work with Wednesdays In Mississippi. A documentary film is currently in production for Wednesdays In Mississippi.