Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Janann M. Sherman

Committee Member

Beverly G. Bond

Committee Member

Margaret M. Caffrey

Committee Member

Aram Goudsouzian


The Arkansas Delta has a rich history of struggle and resistance, however, little is known about how local people organized for social justice. The widely-held belief is that black, male church pastors defined civil rights issues in their communities and led the people to action when they believed it was appropriate. This study is a corrective for this assumption and illustrates how black women--activist mothers--used the churches and African American religion as launching points for activist activities that they deemed critical to survival. As grassroots caretakers of the black community, local personalities---as teachers and tenant farmers, as club women, race women or union women, as church mothers and movement mamas--overlapped with their multiple as grandmothers, mothers, wives, daughters, aunts. girls, sisters, and friends. Taken together, these activist mothers represent a continuity of purpose that has largely been dismissed by scholars. By analyzing these intersections, this study illustrates the personal, political , social, and economic efficacy of their activism and honors the women who led collective resistance in the Arkansas Delta for a century. In some cases, their stories have been teased from newspaper accounts, census and governmental records, lawsuits, official club or local reports, church histories, area studies and surveys, and other archived sources. At other times the women's voices are found in instances of reported speech or the stories told about them by others. However, to the fullest extent possible the activist mothers speak for themselves through their letters, oral narratives, and even music and photographs.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.