CHILD WATCH™ COLUMN
VICTORIA JACKSON GRAY ADAMS: A GREAT FALLEN OAK
“We accomplished the removal of the wall, the curtain of fear in
Victoria Gray Adams was born in 1926 in Palmers Crossing,
She became one of the first people from her area to attend the citizenship schools run by the late great Septima Clark, which trained people to return home and engage in voter education and registration in their own communities. Vicky Gray later remembered her first experiences quietly teaching nighttime “literacy classes,” which were also serving as citizenship and voter education classes, to a small group of fellow Blacks from her hometown: “At the end of every class period, we would sing ‘We shall overcome, we shall overcome, someday.’ So we were doing that ritual, and I remember saying to myself, ‘You've got to be kidding. You have got to be kidding. What on earth is this group going to overcome?’ I never forgot that, because
As a founding member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, she ignored the potential danger to her own safety when she agreed to be the party’s candidate to challenge powerful segregationist John Stennis for his Senate seat in 1964. MFDP’s next step was to challenge their state’s segregated delegation to the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Their attempt to be seated brought them national attention and sympathy, as thousands of Americans watched the television coverage of party Vice Chair Fannie Lou Hamer’s legendary testimony explaining their cause. MFDP’s actions changed the way states could choose their party delegations for good. Later, Victoria Gray Adams, Mrs. Hamer, and fellow MFDP member Annie Devine became the first Black women to be seated as guests on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Throughout the rest of her long career as an educator, campus minister, and a founder and leader of other grassroots organizations, Victoria Gray Adams never wavered in her struggle to transform our nation for the better. She also never stopped reminding others that the need for willing workers is still strong. As she said in an interview a few years ago, “People talk about marches, and the marches were important, they played a tremendous role. But where did those marches come from? What precipitated it? Where did people get the courage after 100 years to rise up and begin to do that, knowing full well that they were taking their lives in their hands? Even though you might have seen thousands of people out there marching, that whole thing started somewhere, with somebody.” Victoria Gray Adams took the bold step of choosing to be one of those somebodies. Her example is a strong reminder to the rest of us, in the post-Katrina era, that choosing to be a somebody for justice is as crucial as ever.