On April 21, 2021, Crystal R. Sanders presented “After Freedom Summer: The Child Development Group of Mississippi and the Ongoing Fight for Black Freedom” as part of the History Is Lunch series.
In 1966, forty-eight Black Mississippi preschoolers—with their parents and guardians—took over a congressional hearing room on Capitol Hill to petition lawmakers for a Child Development Group of Mississippi (CDGM) Head Start grant. The “romper lobby,” as they were called, sought congressmen’s support in refuting segregationists’ charges that the CDGM Head Start program was a Black militant organization.
“In reality, the CDGM was a vehicle by which more than two thousand Black, working-class women in Mississippi collaborated with the federal government to seek bottom-up change in the most repressive state in the country,” said Sanders, author of A Chance for Change: Head Start and Mississippi's Black Freedom Struggle. “CDGM not only prepared Black youngsters for school, it provided their parents with jobs and leadership opportunities outside of the local white power structure.”
Crystal R. Sanders is an associate professor of history and the former director of the Africana Research Center at Pennsylvania State University. During the 2020-21 academic year she is a fellow at the National Humanities Center. Sanders graduated with her BA (cum laude) in history and public policy from Duke University and earned a PhD in history from Northwestern University. Sanders’ book A Chance for Change won the 2017 Critics Choice Award from the American Educational Research Association and the 2017 New Scholar’s Book Award from Division F of the American Educational Research Association. She has published in the Journal of Southern History, the North Carolina Historical Review, and the Journal of African American History, among others.