The 32 white and 16 black northern women who went to Mississippi represented a broad cross-section of women who had the ability to make objective observations about life in Mississippi for residents and the visiting civil rights workers. The WIMS women were chosen because they knew who to communicate effectively and be empathetic listeners, rather than put off the southern women by an aggressive agenda. Their affiliations enabled them to make connections with local women who shared memberships with them in national organizations such as the NCNW, YWCA, Church Women United, National Council of Catholic Women, National Council of Jewish Women, League of Women Voters, and American Association of University Women.
The WIMS teams could not have worked effectively without the help of a handful of southern women they called their “angels.” These women not only served as hostesses, they also worked behind the scenes to arrange housing and rental cars; they made connections for them and recruited others to open their homes to the northern women so as not to arouse suspicion in the community. These women, black and white, were well-respected women who owned businesses, had political connections, led local women’s organizations, and, in some cases, had husbands in influential positions. Just like the WIMS team members they represented a broad cross-section of faiths and organizations, and shared a commitment to racial justice.
As each Wednesdays in Mississippi team returned home, they met to discuss their impressions of the trip. These proceedings were taped and often included interested parties in the community, NCNW staff, and family members of the women who had traveled south. The teams discussed what they had seen in Mississippi, how it had impacted their lives and the lives of those they visited, the success of their efforts and any shortcomings, adjustments to be made for upcoming teams, and their plans to support civil rights in Mississippi and at home in the future.
Each debriefing was taped, however, the tape for Team 4 was lost, possibly recorded over by accident. The transcripts originally created in 1964, have large sections of paraphrased material. The National Archives for Black Women’s History has an on-going project to created verbatim transcripts to replace them.
View the debriefing summary, which sets the stage for all the speakers and topics discussed at the debriefing.
Listen to Dorothy Height talk about her experiences as part of Team 1. The following audio files are excerpts from the original taped debriefing. Some of the files include a slide show of relevant images.
Many of the team members stayed at the Sun-Sand Motor Hotel, which was quite modern and popular int he mid-1960s. Although it had claimed to integrate after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 took affect, Dorothy Height, Clarie Collins Harvey, and Marian Logan felt threatened by the staff’s behavior when they stopped in for dinner on Tuesday night, July 7th, the first night of the first WIMS’s teams visits. Click on the link below to hear Dorothy Height describe the experience.
Listen to Dorothy Height talk about the Sun-N-Sand Motel
Listen to Dorothy Height talk about Segregated Taxis
Listen to Dorothy Height talk about the WIMS Objectives
Listen to Dorothy Height talk about Freedom Schools