Victoria Jackson Gray Adams

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Victoria (Almeter) Jackson Gray Jackson (1926-2006), political activist, was born on November 5, 1926, in the Palmer's Crossing community, a historically-black settlement which is now a part of the City of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Her parents were Mack and Annie Mae Ott Jackson. She was a graduate of Depriest Consolidated School in Palmer's Crossing and attended Wilberforce University, the Tuskegee Institute, and Jackson State University. Her first marriage was to Tony West Gray and three children were born of the union—Georgie Roswitha Gray, Tony West Gray, Jr., and Cecil Conteen Gray. She later married Reuben Ernest Adams, Jr., and they became the parents of a son, Reuben Ernest Adams, III.

Victoria J.G. Adams, began her civil rights activities by teaching voter registration classes in the 1960s. At that time, although thirty percent of Hattiesburg's citizens were African American, only fifty of them were registered to vote. In 1962, she became a field organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee teaching literacy and voter education to sharecroppers. Adams was an active participant in Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964 and was elected to the national board of directors of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

In 1964, Adams ignored her own safety by running against outspoken segregationist U.S. Senator John Stennis in the Democratic primary. Although, African Americans were largely denied the right to vote in Mississippi, Adams ran to make a statement about voting rights. Adams was accompanied by Fannie Lou Hamer and Annie Devine as the first three women to be seated as guests on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Later that year, she helped form the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party which challenged the credentials of the all-white Mississippi delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party activities permanently changed the manner in which state delegates were chosen by the Democratic Party for its national conventions.

After King’s assassination in 1968, Adams moved to Petersburg, Virginia. A lay leader of the Methodist Church, Adams served for 30 years as campus minister at the historically black Virginia State University.

Victoria Jackson Gray Adams was one of the most important black Mississippians who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. Her distinguished career included not only civil rights activism, but also teaching in the public schools in rural Mississippi; teaching in the Royal Thai Army Languages Academy in Bangkok, Thailand; and teaching real estate and marketing at Virginia State University. Today, the state of Mississippi has more African American elected officials than any other state, partly because of the efforts of Victoria Gray Adams. Her papers, housed at Mississippi State University, form the basis for one of the largest collections of archival materials on the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement.

Adams died on August 12, 2006, of lung cancer.

References

  • Adams (Victoria Gray) Papers -Univ. Southern Mississippi Archives- ca. 1938 - 2000
  • The Victoria Jackson Gray Adams Papers in the Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archives;