Building the Collective “voice of Negro women in Mississippi”: The National Council of Negro Women in Mississippi in the 1960s and 1970s Lesson Plan


With this article, Rebecca Tuuri introduces the history, mission, and innovative female leaders who championed the National Council of Negro Women from its inception in 1935 through its spread and successes specifically in the state of Mississippi during the 20th century. Focusing on NCNW’s efforts to unite diverse social and political organizations, Tuuri describes how the National Council for Negro Women has worked to support Black women in achieving leadership roles, promoting health and education, and achieving Black pride in Mississippi communities.


Grades 7 - 12


2018 Mississippi College-and Career-Readiness Standards for the Social Studies

Relevant Strands: Civics, History, Civil Rights, Geography, Economics

Mississippi Studies

  • MS.8 Evaluate the role of Mississippi in the Civil Rights Movement.

US History: 1877 to Present

  • US.11 Civil Rights Movement: Evaluate the impact of the Civil Rights Movement on social and political change in the United States.

US Government

  • USG.7 Describe and evaluate the role, rights, and responsibility of a citizen in the American democracy.

Problems in American Democracy

  • PAD.8 Examine how and under what circumstances state governments and the federal government have expanded or constrained the civil and political rights of African-Americans and other groups since the Civil War.
  • PAD.9 Describe the major events in U.S. history related to the rights and status of women.

African American Studies

  • AAS.8 Analyze the successes and failures of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States
  • AAS.9 Debate the issues confronting contemporary African Americans in the continuing struggle for equality.

Minority Studies

  • MIN.4 Examine the Women’s Rights Movement from 1848 to present day.
  • MIN.6 Examine the major events, methods, and leaders of the Civil Rights Movement


Two to three 50-minute class periods (flexible based on which tasks are deemed applicable to each course, and which are completed in class together or assigned as independent work to be completed outside of the classroom)


  1. Mississippi History Now article, Building the Collective “voice of Negro women in Mississippi”: The National Council of Negro Women in Mississippi in the 1960s and 1970s by Rebecca Tuuri
  2. Group Discussion Questions
  3. Computer or tablet with internet access, multiple devices per class
  4. Printing capacity
  5. White board
  6. Paper
  7. Pen/pencil
  8. Highlighter
  9. Poster boards
  10. (Optional: markers / art supplies of choice / scissors & glue / butcher paper / rulers)



Brainstorm with students what comes to mind when you think about civil rights in Mississippi. Keep track of responses on white board (set timer to keep this activity brief). Some answers may be Medgar Ever, Freedom Summer, and Fanny Lou Hamer.

How many women did your students mention? What era did they focus the most on? Did they mention Mississippi specific events and people? Did they focus on national narratives and activists such as Martin Luther King Jr.?

Introduce Rebecca Tuuri’s article, Building the Collective “voice of Negro women in Mississippi”: The National Council of Negro Women in Mississippi in the 1960s and 1970s.


  1. Access Civil Rights timeline for context (Depending on when in your history course and how you use this article, students may need more or less context for events mentioned)
  2. Assign the article, Building the Collective “Voice of Negro Women in Mississippi”: The National Council of Negro Women in Mississippi in the 1960s and 1970s, for students to read prior to class as homework, or read aloud as a class as time permits.

This timeline from Mississippi Department of Archives and History can be viewed by era or by year, and links to records of related artifacts within their collections.


Article Specific Group Discussion Questions

After reading the article, Building the Collective “Voice of Negro Women in Mississippi”: The National Council of Negro Women in Mississippi in the 1960s and 1970s, have students answer the following questions independently, then bring the students back together for a class discussion.

  • What is Dorothy Height seeking to do in November of 1966?
  • What is the mission of NCNW during the 1960s and 1970s?
  • Who was Mary McLeod Bethune, and what were some of her contributions to history?
  • Why does Dorothy Height first bring her attention to Mississippi?
  • What is the relationship of NCNW to Wednesday in Mississippi (WIMS) and Womanpower Unlimited?
  • What did WIMS hope to achieve within the state of MS? Was it successful?
  • What is the relationship of NCNW to Head Start projects around the state of Mississippi in the 1960s?
  • What is the significance of NCNW achieving tax-exempt (501(c)3 status) in May of 1966?
  • Name two poverty projects that NCNW women engaged in during the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Was NCNW of greater influence in Mississippi in the 1940s and 1950s, or in the 1960s and 1970s?
  • What is NCNW’s present day status? What issues are its contemporary focus?

Activity 1

Transform the important dates / years / events in the text of this article into a visual timeline.

  1. Highlight the key dates and events from article that tell the story of NCNW.
  2. Highlight key people and when their stories interact with NCNW in Mississippi.
  3. Select focus years and have students present to one another upon completion. You may choose to have a students work in groups, each covering the entirety of the article, or break into decades or other convenient segments based on your course goals).
    • Create a physical timeline in your classroom. You will need a roll of butcher paper, rulers, pencils, pens, and markers
    • Utilize an online timeline creation tool and incorporate images, graphics, and create an interactive timeline. ( is free and geared to educators and students)
Extension Option

Post student timelines online.

Activity 2

Research the individual contributions and personal biographies of the female leaders mentioned within Tuuri’s article.

  1. Have students create a list of leaders mentioned in the article.
  2. Have students compare their list to the original list in the pre-teaching and note the differences. Point out how the article highlights female leadership during the movement.
    • Examples from the article: Dorothy Height, Mary McLeod Bethune, Clarie Collins Harvey, Polly Cowan, Ruth Batson, Annie Devine, Fannie Lou Hamer, Unita Blackwell, Jeanette Smith, and Jessie Mosley.
  3. Break students into teams, and assign each team a different woman to research, or let them select based on personal interest.
  4. Have students prepare presentations (PowerPoint/Keynote/Prezi /“living wax museum” first person theatrical presentation/presenter or teacher’s choice) to their classmates to extend their learning and refine speaking and communication skills.

Activity 3

Alphabet Soup:

  1. Identify major organizations listed within article.
  2. Ask students:
    • How many different organizational acronyms are mentioned here?
    • What do they have in common?
    • Identify which organizations focused only on women and which focused only on Mississippi?
  3. Have students use Worksheet A: Alphabet Soup! to investigate these organizations using the key reporters’ questions (Who, What, When, Where, Why, & How).
  4. Have students create recruitment posters for each of the organizations (or focus exclusively on NCNW), imagining they were living during the middle of the 20th Century.
  5. Ask students to answer these questions prior to creating their poster:
    • Who would you be targeting to join your cause?
    • How do you visually attract those people to your sign?
    • What are your organization’s major initiatives during this period? Can you express them succinctly?
    • You have limited text space – what do you NEED to say? What can be visually expressed?
    • What change does your organization want to see?
  6. Hang completed posters in classroom/school.

Activity 4

NCNW Compare & Contrast: How do NCNW’s earlier projects compare with their current initiatives?

  1. Utilizing Tuuri’s article choose 3 activities, interests, or initiatives that NCNW championed during the 20th century.
  2. From NCNW’s current web presence, locate 3 (or more) of their ongoing projects."
  3. Discussion Questions
    • What do these activities and initiatives have in common?
    • How are they different?
    • Who is NCNW’s primary audience?
    • Who are they trying to reach with their work?
    • Has their mission changed?
    • What tools did these women use to bring their organizations together in the 20th century, and what tools do they use now?


What is a social justice issue you see in your world today?
Who is unjustly affected by these circumstances?
What change(s) would you like to see in the situation?
What types of local community leaders would you need to bring together to enact change?
What types of national leaders should you seek to engage?

Related Mississippi History Now Articles

“Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi: On Violence and Nonviolence” by Curtis Austin, Ph.D., University of Southern Mississippi.
"Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi: When Youth Protest, 1955-1970” by Dernoral Davis, Ph.D., Jackson State University.
“1961 in Mississippi: Beyond the Freedom Riders” by Françoise N. Hamlin
“Fannie Lou Hamer: Civil Rights Activist” By Kay Mills

Worksheet A: Alphabet Soup!

From Georgia Tech’s “Institute Communications”

The Who, What, When, Where, Why of a Story

One of the best practices for writers is to follow “The 5Ws” guideline, by investigating the Who, What, Where, When and Why of a story.

If you can’t identify what makes your story unique and interesting, chances are nobody else will either.

  • Who is driving the story? Who is it about? Who is affected? Who benefits? Who loses?
  • What has happened? What are the consequences? What does this mean for the reader?
  • Where is this taking place (building, neighborhood, city, country)? Where should readers to to learn more?
  • When did it happen (time of day, day, month, year)? When was the last update? When can you expect to learn more? When will the effects be felt?
  • Why did this event take place? Why is this important in the big picture? Why should readers care?