Photography by: Markel McBride
Peggy Jean Connor, 81, is a native of Hattiesburg, MS. Connor spoke with students of Remembering Freedom Summer High School Journalism Workshop. Connor attended Eureka High School, Alcorn Extension at Royal Street High School, and Garrets Beauty School. She graduted from Garrett's in August 1946, becoming a licensced beautician at age 14. Connor was a beautician, and, at age 21, Connor was operator of Jean's Beauty Shop in Hattiesburg.
Connor spoke on the life she remembers as an Freedom Summer activist. Connor was in charge of running a precient in Hattiesburg, there was 12 precients in Hattiesburg at the time. Eighteen African Americans paid poll taxes at age 21. Connor's seventh-grade teacher, which taught her citizenship, told to the class, "Go register to vote when you turn 21." Connor said, "She figured out later, the reason the teacher was telling the class to go vote at 21, was because, she couldn't go vote."
Connor later got involved in the movement that would hopefully get more African Americans to vote. Connor got involved by attending a mass meeting, which took place after an night of Bible study at the local church in Hattiesburg. She began to become more active.
The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) was an American political party created in the state of Mississippi in 1964, during the civil rights movement. It was organized by African Americans within the Freedom Summer fight, with assistance from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Council of Federated Organizations (COFO).
Connor was arrested twice during the journey of improving African Americans voting rights; 300 people were sent to jail. They stayed in jail for a week. In order for Connor to get out of jail, someone put their property up sell, and in return Connor mother had to do the same in return to get someone else out. Connor said, "I was never afraid because I knew God was with me."
Once Connor and MFDP arrived in Atlantic City, NJ, they were confronted by political officials. The officials confronted them, and wanted the MFDP to compromise on securing delegates. "We didn't know what compromise was; we went to win," said Connor. MFDP and Conner's mind was made, no more! They wanted to be equally to everyone in the world. That same day, MFDP was offered 2 seats--non voting seats. Connor gave insight, that the men of the MFDP wanted to accept the 2 non- voting seats.
Mrs. Peggy Jean Connor wants all African American youth to "Wake up." She feels as though someone within the youth today needs to stand up and improve the ways we think and act in society today.
Written By: Markel K. McBride