The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Number: M 379
Dates: ca. 1960s-2001
Volume: .10 cu.ft.
Peggy Jean Connor, daughter of John Henry Gould and Esther Jemison Gould of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was born on October 29, 1932. She was one of four children. Her siblings were Eleanor Joyce Gould-Tooson, Sylvia Yvonne Gould-Willis, and John Henry Gould, Jr. She married Dennie Frank Connor with whom she had three children, LaJoyce Yvonne Connor (who died of polio in 1959), Dennie Frank Connor, Jr. and Felecia Denise Connor-Young.
Mrs. Connor attended Eureka High School, Alcorn Extension at Royal Street High School, and Garrett’s Beauty School. She graduated from Garrett’s in August of 1946, becoming a licensed beautician by age fourteen. At twenty-one, Mrs. Connor was owner and operator of Jean’s Beauty Shop in Hattiesburg.
Peggy Jean Connor held office in two Mississippi-based civil rights organizations in the 1960s, serving as Secretary Treasurer of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) in Hattiesburg and as Executive Secretary of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP).
Mrs. Connor co-founded the MFDP with two other activists, Victoria Jackson Gray and J.C. Fairley. While serving as Executive Secretary, Mrs. Connor attended the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey and offered her name to the Peggy Jean Connor et al. vs. Paul B. Johnson, Jr. suit in favor of legislative reapportionment in the state of Mississippi. Paul B. Johnson, Jr. was the Governor of Mississippi at the time of the trial. The suit was filed in 1965 and a verdict was reached fourteen years later.
In addition to her activism as an officer for COFO and MFDP, Mrs. Connor contributed on a more personal level to the struggle for civil rights in Hattiesburg. In 1962 and 1963, Mrs. Connor taught citizenship classes at True Light Baptist Church under the auspice of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). She was arrested in April 1964 picketing for voting rights at the Forrest County Courthouse. She was also the plaintiff in a suit filed in her favor against Owl Drug Store, who refused her service due to the color of her skin.
On February 25, 1979, Mrs. Connor received the Carter G. Woodson Black History Award for Courage in Civil Rights. In 2002, she was awarded a Lifetime Service Achievement Award from the Youth Action Council of Dream (Drug-Free Resources for Education and Alternatives in Mississippi) of Hattiesburg, Inc. She was also presented an Appreciation of Service Award by EURO, an organization of Eureka, Rowan and Royal Street High School alumni, for her service as secretary of the organization from 1977 to 2002.
Connor, Peggy Jean. (April 21, 2004). Personal interview with author.
This collection is divided into two series: Papers and Articles.
Series One, Papers, consists of three items: a memoir, a school report, and a thesis. The first item in the series is a copy of a memoir authored by “Civil Rights Activist, Peggy Jean Connor” entitled, “A Commentary on the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi.” This memoir was presented on October 16, 2001 to Dr. Charles Burke’s Freedom Road Class at the University of Southern Mississippi. Dr. Burke, Chair of the Political Science Department at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio, traveled with students to Mississippi to hear Mrs. Connor and Dr. Anthony Harris (son of civil rights activist Daisy Harris Wade) speak about their experiences during the civil rights era in Mississippi. Mrs. Connor spoke about her suit against Owl Drug Store, her involvement with MFDP, and her role in the Connor vs. Johnson trial.
The second item in the series is an original school report authored by R.J. Young, twelve-year-old grandson of Mrs. Connor, entitled, “Freedom Summer Project: A Turning Point in American History.” The circa 2001 report includes an abstract of Mr. Young’s report and an annotated bibliography citing interviews with Mrs. Connor and Dr. Bobs Tusa, former Archivist at the University of Southern Mississippi.
The third item in the series is a copy of an 88-page thesis, dated March 2, 1981, authored by Harvard undergraduate Edward Grobow Redlich entitled, “Toward Equal Representation: The Connor Case and the Struggle for Reapportionment of the Mississippi Legislature."
Series Two, Articles, consists of two photocopied newspaper articles. The first item in the series is an undated article authored by Johanna Neuman entitled, “First Black Mississippi Senator Since Reconstruction Sworn In.” The second item in the series, Vol. (125) No. (183) of The Clarion-Ledger, is an article dated September 14, 1981 authored by Cliff Treyens entitled, “Reapportionment.” Both articles relate to the suit filed by the MFDP, under Mrs. Connor’s name, that challenged districting laws making it difficult for blacks to be elected into the Mississippi Legislature before 1979.
This collection should be of interest to students and researchers of the civil rights era circa 1960-1980; especially those interested in civil rights legal cases and the history of black legislators in Mississippi.