The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Dorie Ladner

Civil rights activist Dorie Ann Ladner was born on June 28, 1942, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. As an adolescent, she became involved in the NAACP Youth Chapter where Clyde Kennard served as advisor. Ladner got involved in the Civil Rights Movement and wanted to be an activist after hearing about the murder of Emmitt Till. After graduating from Earl Travillion High School as salutatorian, alongside her sister, Joyce Ladner, she went on to enroll at Jackson State University. Dedicated to the fight for civil rights, during their freshmen year at Jackson State, she and her sister attended state NAACP meetings with Medgar Evers and Eileen Beard. That same year, Ladner was expelled from Jackson State for participating in a protest against the jailing of nine students from Tougaloo College.

In 1961, Ladner enrolled at Tougaloo College where she became engaged with the Freedom Riders. During the early 1960s, racial hostilities in the South caused Ladner to drop out of school three times to join the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1962, she was arrested along with Charles Bracey, a Tougaloo College student, for attempting to integrate the Woolworth’s lunch counter. She joined with SNCC Project Director Robert Moses and others from SNCC and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to register disenfranchised black voters and integrate public accommodations. Ladner’s civil rights work was exemplified when she became one of the founding members of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) in Clarksdale, Mississippi, which included: NAACP, CORE, SNCC, and SCLC.

Then, in 1964, Ladner became a key organizer in the Freedom Summer Project sponsored by the COFO. Throughout her years of working with SNCC, she served on the front line of the Civil Rights Movement in various capacities. She participated in every civil rights march from 1963 to 1968 including the March on Washington in 1963, the Selma to Montgomery March of 1965 and the Poor People’s March in 1968. She was the SNCC project director in Natchez, Mississippi, from 1964 to 1966, and lectured at universities, churches, and other institutions to raise money for the organization. In addition, Ladner was a supporter of the Anti-Vietnam War Movement and worked in the presidential campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern. She went on to serve as a community organizer for the Anti Poverty Program in St. Louis, Missouri, and was an advocate for civil rights in housing and employment. Ladner has also worked for the Martin Luther King Library Documentation Center to help collect the history of people who were participants in the Civil Rights Movement.

In 1973, after her marriage and the birth of her only child, Yodit, Ladner earned her B.A. degree from Tougaloo College. In 1974, she moved to Washington, D.C., and enrolled at the Howard University School of Social Work where she earned her MSW degree in 1975. Ladner has served as a clinical social worker in both the Washington, D.C. General Emergency Room and Psychiatry Department for thirty years. Since her retirement, she has continued her work as a social activist by participating in genealogical research, public speaking, anti-war activities (marches against the war in Iraq), and volunteering in the presidential campaign of Barack Obama.

Accession Number

A2008.079

Sex

Female

Interview Date

5/2/2008 |and| 7/24/2008

Last Name

Ladner

Maker Category
Schools

Earl Travillion High School

Jackson State University

Tougaloo College

De Priest School

First Name

Dorie

Birth City, State, Country

Hattiesburg

HM ID

LAD03

Favorite Season

Spring, Winter

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Freedom Is A Constant Struggle.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

6/28/1942

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Southern Food, Brownies

Short Description

Civil rights activist and city social service worker Dorie Ladner (1942 - ) is a founding member of the Council of Federated Organizations, and participated in the March on Washington, the Selma to Montgomery March, and the Poor People's March. She was the SNCC project director in Natchez, Mississippi, and a clinical social worker in the Washington, D.C. General Emergency Room and Psychiatry Department.

Favorite Color

Bright Colors

Timing Pairs
0,0:990,14:1620,22:3060,37:3510,43:19290,332:24330,400:25410,411:30420,430:31630,440:32950,454:40507,488:45120,525:50920,563:51870,576:56102,587:75575,818:75915,823:78465,872:78975,879:83735,1002:84245,1018:84925,1029:85605,1042:92465,1125:95270,1166:97650,1190:100540,1234:101815,1251:119988,1458:120508,1465:121028,1472:129435,1514:132030,1525:133470,1539:134270,1552:135070,1563:142080,1657:143160,1664:144908,1669:154030,1735:158398,1801:181140,2116:181748,2125:183420,2146:186612,2209:193795,2286:194474,2295:198560,2309:204984,2401:205714,2413:206882,2434:232246,2733:238592,2817:240616,2847:249750,2947:252450,2982:253250,2991:255150,3018:277090,3288:312680,3843:314405,3879:314930,3887:315830,3902:316355,3911:320538,3942:323100,3968:325200,3992$0,0:710,7:1270,14:2390,23:37630,454:86160,1014:92337,1141:94251,1173:100329,1254:101433,1271:105096,1324:123860,1535:127970,1563:129174,1584:151691,1898:154720,1915:157030,1953:157690,1960:161650,2020:174368,2203:174728,2209:192608,2558:193012,2563:196550,2568:197208,2577:197866,2595:199840,2625:204400,2675:211430,2752:212230,2761:222958,2840:234796,3015:236830,3025:237395,3031:250111,3213:251637,3231:252073,3236:262370,3325
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dorie Ladner's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner talks about her maternal grandfather and great-grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner describes her mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner talks about race relations in the South

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dorie Ladner talks about the economic opportunities in Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner describes her paternal grandfather's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner talks about her French ancestry

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner talks about her paternal grandfather's death

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner talks about her relation to Thomas Ladnier

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner describes her father and his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner recalls her decision to stop her genealogical research

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner describes her father

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner describes her likeness to her parents

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Dorie Ladner describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Dorie Ladner remembers the community of Palmer's Crossing, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner describes the sights, sounds and smell of her childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner describes her schooling in Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner remembers the murder of Emmett Till

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner recalls her early exposure to African American publications

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner remembers the lynchings in Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner describes the economy in Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner describes her education at the De Priest School in Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner remembers joining the NAACP

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Dorie Ladner recalls matriculating at Jackson State College in Jackson, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner remembers meeting with Medgar Evers

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner recalls her experiences at Jackson State College in Jackson, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner describes the history of Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner remembers demonstrating with Tougaloo College students

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner recalls transferring to Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner describes the figures in Mississippi's Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner remembers travelling through the Mississippi Delta

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner remembers meeting Fannie Lou Hamer

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner reflects upon the success of the Civil Rights Movement in rural Mississippi

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner describes the violence against civil rights organizers

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner remembers Robert Parris Moses

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner recalls joining the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner remembers the imprisonment of Clyde Kennard

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner recalls Clyde Kennard's release from prison

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner describes the summer of 1963

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Dorie Ladner remembers the murder of Medgar Evers

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner talks about the African American legislators during Reconstruction

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner remembers Medgar Evers' funeral

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner recalls being jailed after Medgar Evers' funeral

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner describes the trial of Medgar Evers' murderer

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner recalls being accosted at a bus station by racist whites

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner recalls the funeral of the victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner recalls working with SNCC in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner recalls the attempted bombing of the SNCC office in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner narrates her photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner narrates her photographs, pt. 3

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner narrates her photographs, pt. 4

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner recalls the murders of Herbert Lee and Lewis Allen

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner recalls the decision to recruit northern civil rights workers

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner describes the early membership of SNCC

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner remembers SNCC's recruitment at northern colleges

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner recalls the federal government's opposition to SNCC

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner remembers SNCC's nonviolent action training program

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner remembers the Freedom Summer murders

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner describes the SNCC training program in Oxford, Ohio

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner recalls the mission of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner talks about her civil rights work in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner recalls the collaboration between SNCC and the U.S. Department of Justice

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner remembers transporting SNCC volunteers to Mississippi

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner recalls establishing a Freedom House in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner talks about race relations in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner describes the attitudes towards outsiders in Mississippi

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner describes her daily activities as a civil rights organizer in Mississippi

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner remembers developing trust with the black community in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner describes the white reactions to civil rights workers in Mississippi

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner describes the violations of her First Amendment rights

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner talks about the importance of her roots in Mississippi

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner talks about SNCC's black northern membership

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner describes the backgrounds of the members of SNCC

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner talks about the role of white women in SNCC

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner recalls the founding of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner recalls the federal response to the Freedom Summer murders

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner describes the objectives of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner describes the events of the 1964 Democratic National Convention, pt. 1

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner describes the events of the 1964 Democratic National Convention, pt. 2

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner describes the reactions to the 1964 Democratic National Convention

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner recalls the Freedom Summer murder trial

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner describes the aftermath of the 1964 Democratic National Convention

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner reflects upon SNCC's accomplishments in Mississippi

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner remembers the SNCC retreat in Waveland, Mississippi

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner recalls the transition of civil rights activities to Alabama

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner remember the U.S. Congressional campaigns by SNCC activists

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner recalls the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner reflects upon the strategies of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner reflects upon her life

Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner describes SNCC's philosophy of activism

Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner talks about the differences between the SCLC and SNCC

Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner remembers the March on Washington

Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner describes the value of genealogical research

Tape: 13 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner describes her family

Tape: 13 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner talks about Barack Obama's presidential candidacy

Tape: 13 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

2$1

DATape

12$6

DAStory

1$4

DATitle
Dorie Ladner reflects upon SNCC's accomplishments in Mississippi
Dorie Ladner describes the trial of Medgar Evers' murderer
Transcript
Well, we were talking about the, the early part of 1965, a retreat in Waverley, Mississippi?$$Waveland.$$Waveland, Mississippi, yeah, Waveland, okay; down on the coast, right? The Gulf Coast (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yes, Mississippi Gulf Coast.$$Yeah. And you said that the SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] people were kind of beating up on themselves.$$Well, yes. It was a retreat to assess what we had done, our successes and failures, and where were we going from there. And some people thought that enough hadn't been accomplished; some thought that some- something had been accomplished, and some weren't quite sure. I know--for myself, I, I knew that things had changed; I'll speak for myself.$$Okay. How had they changed? I mean this (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Because, as I said earlier, that I wanted the young people who were coming into Mississippi, I wanted them to come and see, come and see what was going on, what was happening to us--the young white people who were coming and bringing the media and bringing the federal government into the State of Mississippi to see the brutality and the deaths, and to see the disenfranchisement, the humiliation, the wages--low wages; I wanted everything to be seen. And for me, I knew that Mississippi would never be the same again because it had been exposed to the whole world, and that, for me, was enough. It wasn't enough, but it was enough for me to say that never, never, never again would this happen, and I felt that voter registration, going to the Democratic Convention [1964 Democratic National Convention, Atlantic City, New Jersey], and encountering people from different congressional districts, and having gone to the seat of power, Humphrey [Hubert Humphrey] and the president of the United States [President Lyndon Baines Johnson] knows that we're here now, and our workers had been killed, and the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] had set up headquarters in Mississippi. J. Edgar Hoover had been down there and--searching for the bodies, and the whole state was saturated. No stone was left unturned, although they may have hidden something under them or may--something may have been left, but everything was wide open; Mississippi was wide open, and blacks had gained a sense of empowerment. There were no, no longer any twelve o'clock curfews in Clarksdale, Mississippi, ten o'clock curfews for blacks in Ruleville, Mississippi with the night watchman [J.W. Milam] who had killed Emmett Till serving as the night watchman in Ruleville, and these things were--got--were eradicated. I wanted everybody to come and see, come and see. And for me, I felt that a lot of that had been accomplished. Of course, we had a long way to go because Mississippi is still the poorest state in the union, and the economic part had to be dealt with. But just the humiliation of buying a dress and not being able to try it on. Not being--being told to get out of a restaurant or doctor's office. I know when I was about twelve years old--I had always suffered with sinusitis, and went into the doctor's office and they--woman--nurse came and told me, "Get the hell out of there and go in the back door." Now there was another door at the end of the hall, to go to that door. But the humiliation of day to day activities that you don't anticipate, but it's like everybody sees now, everybody knows what's going on, everybody knows that Herbert Lee was killed, Louis Allen was killed, Mickey Schwerner [Michael Schwerner] and James Chaney and Reverend Lee [George W. Lee] from Belzoni [Mississippi] was killed--they know that; they know Emmett Till was murdered. Emmett Till was murdered and his mama [Mamie Till Mobley] let everybody see his face. Mack Charles Parker was killed--he was thrown into the river; everybody knows that. How many deaths will it take? And they started naming all the names of people who'd been killed. So, that was my whole feeling about what had happened.$It was such a painful, painful time. Your, your mentor--the individual who had nurtured you and who had taught you, and who had taken time to teach you, and to see him gunned down like that, and you'd been with them the night before and said, "We'll see you tomorrow." And I went to both the trials, and Byron De La Beckwith, the murderer, came into the courtroom, they say he had already shot his wife [Mary Williams Beckwith] in the buttocks when he came to court. And his son [Byron De La Beckwith, Jr.] was there. The first judge was moderate; he said, "You could sit wherever you wanna sit." And it was quiet in the courtroom, so we'd come in and sit down; we'd come from Tougaloo [Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi] every day and observe. But one day I came, and this white man put his foot up on the seat to keep me from sitting down and I said, "The judge said we could sit wherever we wanna sit. Move your foot!" And he took his foot down. So, my buddy (laughter), Thomas Armstrong, who was with me--looked for Armstrong--Armstrong was sitting back there acting as if, if he didn't know me, but it didn't matter. The next day I came to court, these same men would say, "Here she comes; what she gonna do this time?" I said, "The same thing I did yesterday." 'Cause Mother [Annie Woullard Perryman] always told us, "Don't you back down; once you get into it, you stay in." And so, they found--they had a--but the way the jury was selected, William Waller who later became judge--the DA [district attorney] at that time, said--would say, when they selected a jury, "Medgar Evers was a nigger, he lived over in nigger town, I didn't agree with what he did, and I know you don't either, but it's my job to uphold the law. Do you think it's wrong for a white man to kill a nigger?" And some of them said--would say, "No," some indifferent, and so that's how he selected the first jury. The second trial--that was mistrial. The second trial, the Klu Klux Klan [sic. Ku Klux Klan, KKK] came, and they dominated the whole courtroom. The jailer--the bailiff had a big thick cane and made us go up to the balcony, and we had to sit in the balcony. But see, we had to time it just right because if we were there by the time they got out of court, we would get beaten, so we would leave and run down those marble steps. You know, in these courthouses, they had these marble steps and those old raggedy elevators? We would run down the steps and get away from the courthouse, and Farish Street [Jackson, Mississippi] was like--almost a mile from where we were; you had the courthouse and the jail right together, so we would (makes sound) run. And the second mis- this--Beckwith would come in for the Klan, they would give him a standing ovation, he would take his bow, and make his little speech and thank them, and they would applaud him and he would have his seat. And so, another mistrial was declared, and this time they--we got caught; they had let out so fast, we weren't able to get away, but Jesse Morris drove up (laughter) in one of those VW [Volkswagen] wagons, and said, "Do y'all need a ride?" And we said, "Yes," and we jumped in and flew, and that was divine intervention because they were very angry, very angry--you know, the Klan, 'cause they were there, and so we got away safely.