In Memoriam: Dorie Ladner

Dorie Ladner

June 28, 1942 – March 11, 2024

Dorie Ann Ladner was born in June 1942 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, one of nine children born to her parents Annie and Eunice Ladner. She was raised in the predominantly Black community of Palmer’s Crossing. Dorie was 13 years old when she learned of the lynching of Emmett Till, a boy almost her same age. She was influenced to become involved in the civil rights movement. “The Emmett Till murder left a strong impression on me,” Dorie wrote later. “I said if they do it to him they can do it to me”. In high school she joined the NAACP Youth Council in Hattiesburg, where she met and was mentored by Medgar Evers.

Dorie began her college education at Jackson State University, from which she was expelled for her activism in support of the Tougaloo Nine. She was invited to enroll at Tougaloo, but instead became involved full-time in the civil rights movement. “The movement was something I wanted to do,” Dorie told The Southern Quarterly in 2014. “It was pulling at me, pulling at me, so I followed my conscience.” She went to work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee on voter registration and community organizing, and was SNCC’s Field Director in Natchez from 1964-1966. She was arrested during a Woolworth’s sit-in in Jackson in 1962, and arrested for picketing In the 1961 Jackson boycotts. In 1963 SNCC sent Joyce to New York City to help organize the March on Washington. In 1965 she participated in the March from Selma to Montgomery. In 1964 she became a key organizer for the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project.

Dorie became involved in the Anti-Vietnam War movement. She worked in the presidential campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern.

In 1973 she returned to Tougaloo, earning her B.A. in history. In 1975 she moved to Washington, DC, where she enrolled at Howard University and earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work. She worked as a social worker at the D.C. General Hospital. After her retirement she continued to participate in conferences and panels. She was a regular commentator on WPFW-FM Radio. In 2014 Dorie was awarded an honorary doctorate from Tougaloo College, and in 2017 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of the District of Columbia.

Dorie is survived by her daughter Yodit, one grandson, and sister Joyce, who wrote:
“She will always be my big sister who fought tenaciously for the underdog and the dispossessed. She leaves a profound legacy of service.”

Dorie Ladner