The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon

Search Results

Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Hellen O'Neal-McCray

Share on Social Media

Information about Hellen O'Neal-McCray

Profile image of Hellen O'Neal-McCray

Interview Date

March 21, 2006

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Civil Rights Activist
High School Teacher

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Ice Cream
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Beaches
Favorite Quote:
It Is Not The Size Of The Dog In The Fight. It Is The Size Of The Fight In The Dog.

Birthplace

Born:
3/4/1941
Birth Location:
Clarksdale, Mississippi

Interview Date

March 21, 2006

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Civil Rights Activist
High School Teacher

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Ice Cream
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Beaches
Favorite Quote:
It Is Not The Size Of The Dog In The Fight. It Is The Size Of The Fight In The Dog.

Birthplace

Born:
3/4/1941
Birth Location:
Clarksdale
See how Hellen O'Neal-McCray is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Civil rights volunteer, Hellen Jean O’Neal-McCray was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi on March 4, 1941 to Willie Long Anderson and Lester Calvin O’Neal. She attended Immaculate Conception School, Myrtle Hall Colored School and Holy Rosary School in Lafayette, Louisiana. Keeping up with current events, O’Neal-McCray knew activist druggist “Doc” Aaron Henry and read the Chicago Defender. A member of the school band, she graduated from W.A. Higgins High School in Clarksdale in 1959.

In 1961, O’Neal-McCray met Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) organizers, James Bevel and Bernard Lafayette and they encouraged her to get involved in the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement. As a student, O’Neal-McCray helped Diane Nash when the Freedom Rides came to Jackson. She and Charles Cox became co-chairs of the Jackson Non-Violent Movement, working with Paul Brooks, Thomas Gaither, Marion Barry, Levaughn Brown, Richard Haley and Jesse Harris. They organized a demonstration at the Southern Governor’s Conference at the Heidelberg Hotel, enraging segregationist Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. O’Neal-McCray was arrested (the first of many times) for “disturbing the peace and tranquility of the State of Mississippi.” Defended by William Kuntsler, O’Neal-McCray was sentenced to six months, but only served ten days. Soon, her civil rights activity found its home with the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She served as a SNCC staff member before graduating from Jackson State in 1963. O’Neal-McCray, knew and worked with SNCC’s Ella Baker, Bob Moses, Casey Hayden, Annelle Ponder and Fannie Lou Hamer. She taught in a SNCC Freedom School in Mccomb, Mississippi.

In 1965, O’Neal-McCray helped staff the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee in Shreveport, Louisiana. She worked for the Southern Regional Council and National Sharecroppers Fund in Atlanta before retiring from intense movement activity. Moving to Yellow Springs, Ohio in 1966, O’Neal-McCray quietly worked at Fels Research Institute and attended Wright State University. She taught school in Springfield, Ohio for twenty-nine years and taught African American literature and composition at Wilberforce University. She attended the 30th Anniversary of Freedom Summer and the 40th Anniversary Freedom Riders Reunion in Jackson, and O’Neal-McCray wrote about her experiences in the Movement.

O’Neal-McCray was married to fellow SNCC activist, Willie McCray and has two grown sons, a grandson and a granddaughter.

Hellen O'Neal-McCray passed away on February 24, 2010.

See how Hellen O'Neal-McCray is related to other HistoryMakers
Loading...
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!