by Lisa Moore, Reference Archivist
The owner of the Collins Funeral Home in Jackson, Mississippi was an activist in the civil rights movement, the women’s movement and the international peace movement during the 1960s and 1970s. When Freedom Riders arrived in Jackson to challenge segregated interstate bus transportation, Clarie Collins Harvey co-founded Womanpower Unlimited to provide the civil rights activists with food, shelter and money. Harvey networked with other organizations—local, national and international—to achieve those goals. You can read more about her life in Tiyi M. Morris’ book, Womanpower Unlimited and the Black Freedom Struggle in Mississippi (University of Georgia Press, 2015).
While scanning selected documents from the Clarie Collins Harvey papers for the Digital Public Library of America’s (DPLA) Black Women’s Suffrage Project, I encountered several instances of concrete evidence of the intersections between Harvey’s civil rights work of the 1960s in Mississippi and the international women’s peace movement. In one letter, Virginia Naeve, a Vermont-based activist with Women Strike for Peace (WSP), asks Harvey to choose a young woman from Jackson to participate in an upcoming women’s peace movement conference at The Hague in May 1964.
Virginia Naeve and Clarie Collins Harvey met in 1962 during a WSP trip to a nuclear disarmament conference in Geneva, Switzerland, which Harvey attended (as did Coretta Scott King). The next year, when Naeve organized a trip to the Vatican for WSP, Harvey was one of two black women who traveled to Italy for that pilgrimage; women from 18 countries went to appeal to Pope John XXIII to ask world leaders to stop increasing nuclear weapons. Naeve is noted as an organizer of that event here; Harvey is not mentioned by name, but by her Jackson civil rights activity.
For the 1964 women’s peace movement conference at The Hague, Harvey chose Dora Wilson, a sophomore music major at Tougaloo College in Jackson. Here you can see a dressed-for-travel Dora Wilson on the left, boarding the plane. Harvey was unable to attend the conference, but accompanied Wilson to the airport.
There is also a heartfelt letter in the Clarie Collins Harvey papers from Dora Wilson to Clarie Collins Harvey thanking her for the experience, and promising a formal report to Womanpower Unlimited about the trip. Dora Wilson eventually became a dean at the College of Fine Arts at Ohio University.
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