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 Educating Children in 1960s Mississippi

Zelma Williams Croom, former Head Start Teacher, Mileston, Mississippi

Head Start and Civil Rights

Zelma Williams Croom will give a presentation about establishing the first kindergarten and the first Head Start program for black families in Holmes County, Mississippi beginning in 1964. The event "Head Start and Civil Rights" will be held on September 30, 2010. The reception will begin at 5:30 pm, and the presentation will start at 6 pm in UMD's Griggs Center. The event is free and open to the public. The students, faculty, staff, and the Duluth community are invited to attend.

Croom, now from Cleveland, Ohio, was among the first group of local young adults who became staff at the Holmes County Community Center at Mileston. The teachers were recruited by Civil Rights Movement outside workers, Sue [Lorenzi] Sojourner, now of Duluth, and her activist husband. The early lives of Croom and the other teachers were framed by poverty, abuse, and Jim Crow laws. Croom became a leader in the Civil Rights Movement battling for Head Start, voting rights, and school integration. She has remained an activist ever since.

The courage and commitment these teachers displayed as they helped establish the first area black kindergarten is an inspiration. The staff of the center and the parents of the children attending school faced hardships such as: landlords evicting them, being fired from their jobs, losing their housing and employment as workers for white plantation owners, their banks calling in their loans, their houses shot at, and their property destroyed --- just for helping little children learn to read! On an ongoing basis, they were called names and belittled. Some of the people Croom worked with were physically harassed and even beaten.

1965 - Head Start Teachers, Mileston, Mississippi
Download a poster of the event
"Head Start and Civil Rights:
Educating Children in 1960s Mississippi"
September 30
Reception: 5:30 pm, Presentation: 6 pm
UMD's Griggs Center
Free and open to the public

This event is sponsored by the Commission on Women, the Education Department and African American Student Services.

For info contact: David McCarthy, professor/ed. tech. coordinator, 120 Montague Hall, (218) 726-6236, or Cheryl Reitan, director of marketing and communication, 315 DAdB, 218-726-8996,

Written by Cheryl Reitan

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