A Chance for Change

Head Start and Mississippi's Black Freedom Struggle

By Crystal R. Sanders

266 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 23 halftones, 1 map, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2780-9
    Published: April 2016
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-2781-6
    Published: February 2016

John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture

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Awards & distinctions

New Scholar's Book Award, Division F, American Educational Research Association

In this innovative study, Crystal Sanders explores how working-class black women, in collaboration with the federal government, created the Child Development Group of Mississippi (CDGM) in 1965, a Head Start program that not only gave poor black children access to early childhood education but also provided black women with greater opportunities for political activism during a crucial time in the unfolding of the civil rights movement. Women who had previously worked as domestics and sharecroppers secured jobs through CDGM as teachers and support staff and earned higher wages. The availability of jobs independent of the local white power structure afforded these women the freedom to vote in elections and petition officials without fear of reprisal. But CDGM’s success antagonized segregationists at both the local and state levels who eventually defunded it.

Tracing the stories of the more than 2,500 women who staffed Mississippi's CDGM preschool centers, Sanders’s book remembers women who went beyond teaching children their shapes and colors to challenge the state’s closed political system and white supremacist ideology and offers a profound example for future community organizing in the South.

About the Author

Crystal R. Sanders is assistant professor of history and African American Studies at Pennsylvania State University.
For more information about Crystal R. Sanders, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

“The book has the potential to greatly impact the education and development of teacher educators, teachers, and students in the field of development and early childhood education. For a wide audience. Highly recommended.”--CHOICE

“An important history for our time and deserves a wide readership.”--Southern Register

"This fascinating, deeply researched book . . . reminds us that education has always been part of the black freedom struggle."--North Carolina Historical Review

A Chance for Change tells an important part of the history of the struggle for racial equality in Mississippi, as well as the political evolution of a Deep South state. Extensively researched, the book makes a signal contribution to the study of the modern civil rights movement, the 1960s, African American studies, educational studies, poverty studies, women’s studies, and the modern South.”--Susan Youngblood Ashmore, Oxford College at Emory University

“An extraordinary work, rich and revealing, A Chance for Change challenges common assumptions about what the movement was. I doubt any work on the struggle captures the process of individual transformation as vividly as this one does. At the same time, knowing that CDGM lost support because it was too successful changes our conceptions of what the War on Poverty might have been.”—Charles M. Payne, author of I’ve Got the Light of Freedom

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