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Victoria Jackson Gray Adams (November 5, 1926 – August 12, 2006) was an American civil rights activist from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She was one of the founding members of the influential Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

Early Life and Education

Born on November 5, 1926, in Palmers Crossing, just outside Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the daughter of Mack and Annie Mae (née Ott) Jackson, Victoria Jackson was raised on a farm by her grandparents; her mother had died when she was just three years old. She attended Wilberforce University for one year, but money for tuition ran short. She later studied at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and at Jackson State College in Jackson and qualified as a teacher. She went on to serve as a campus minister at Virginia State University and to teach and lecture at schools, colleges and universities across the nation.

Civil Rights Activist

In the 1960 elections Adams taught classes in voter registration. In 1962, she became field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and led a boycott against Hattiesburg businesses.

In 1964, Adams, a teacher, door-to-door saleswoman of cosmetics, and leader of voter education classes, decided to run against Senator John Stennis, the Mississippi Democrat who at the time had been in the Senate for 16 years. She announced that she and others from the tiny Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, of which she was a founding member, along with Fannie Lou Hamer and Annie Devine, would challenge the power of white segregationist politicians like Stennis. The time had come, she said, to pay attention “to the Negro in Mississippi, who had not even had the leavings from the American political table.”

During the Freedom Summer of 1964, Adams helped open the Freedom Schools that pushed for civil rights in Mississippi. She went to the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Mississippi Democratic Party had withdrawn support for President Lyndon Johnson because of Johnson's work to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and sent an all-white delegation to the convention. The three women fought to be seated among the delegation, but were unsuccessful. The incident, however, led to racial integration reforms within the party.

The same three women were honored congressional guests in 1968, and were seated on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Adams moved to Thailand with her second husband and worked on behalf of African-American U.S. servicemen for several years.

Adams said she learned in 1964 that there were two kinds of people in grass-roots politics, “those who are in the movement and those who have the movement in them.” “The movement is in me”, she said, “and I know it always will be.”

Her first marriage, to Tony Gray, produced three children, Georgie, Tony Jr. (who died in 1997) and Cecil, and ended in divorce in 1964. Other survivors include her second husband, Reuben Earnest Adams Jr. (to whom she had been married for 40 years) and their son, Reuben III; a brother, Glodies Jackson; and eight grandchildren.

Adams died at her son Cecil's home in Baltimore on August 12, 2006 of cancer, aged 79.

Her papers are at the McCain Library and Archives at the University of Southern Mississippi.

External links

  • [1] Obituary in SunHerald
  • [2] Biography from The History Makers
  • [3] NY Times obituary
  • [4] Victoria Gray Adams papers
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