June 28, 1942 -
Raised in Palmers Crossing, Hattiesburg, Mississippi
“Born a rebel against oppression” in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Dorie Ann Ladner was one of the driving forces in the Mississippi Movement that emerged in 1961. As a thirteen-year-old, she was enraged by the 1955 murder of Emmett Till’s murder, who was just a year older than she was at the time.
As a teenager she and her sister Joyce attended NAACP state meetings. During one of these meetings she met Medgar Evers who became one of the great influences on her thinking. When Evers was assassinated in June 1963, it triggered anger as well as distress. The day after his murder she ran up to two white police officers sitting on motorcycles in front of the Masonic Temple (and also NAACP headquarters) in Jackson and shouted at them:“Where were you last night? Why are you here now? Shoot! Shoot! Shoot us in the back like you did Medgar Evers. Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!”
She was active in the protests of the “Tougaloo [college] Nine,” who had been arrested for a sit-in in downtown Jackson. As a consequence she was expelled from Jackson State College (now university) where she was a student.
In 1962, Ladner committed to full-time work with SNCC. She had enrolled at Tougaloo College after being expelled from Jackson State, but dropped out. She once told her younger sister, “Joyce, I can’t stay in school and know my people are suffering.” Committed to civil rights, she began organizing within SNCC’s voter registration drive. In 1965, she became SNCC’s project director in Natchez, Mississippi.
Although Ladner was raised to never to let fear prevent her from doing what she knew was right, she understood the constant possibility and danger of white violence. Entering Natchez to begin organizing there during the Freedom Summer of 1964 with former SNCC chair Chuck McDew and field secretary George Greene, McDew gave her a gun for protection. Despite never needing to use it, Ladner was certain that she would have if she needed to. She once said, “I didn’t think about the ramifications or anything like that; it was save yourself, survive.”
John Dittmer, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi
Charles Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle