In Memoriam: Victoria Gray

Victoria Gray Adams


Born in 1926 in Palmer’s Crossing, Mississippi (now a part of Hattiesburg), Victoria Gray Adams attended Jackson State College.

Her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement began in the early 1960s when she convinced her pastor to open up their church to workers of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).[2] In the 1960 elections, Adams trained individuals from her hometown in voter registration.

In 1962, she became a field secretary for SNCC, and led a boycott against Hattiesburg businesses. In 1964, Adams decided to run against Senator John Stennis, the Mississippi Democrat who at the time had been in the Senate for 16 years. She announced that she and others from the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, of which she was a founding member, along with Fannie Lou Hamer and Annie Devine, would challenge the power of white segregationist politicians like Stennis. The time had come, she said, to pay attention “to the Negro in Mississippi, who had not even had the leavings from the American political table.” During the Freedom Summer of 1964, Adams helped open the Freedom Schools that pushed for civil rights in Mississippi. She went to the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The MFDP challenge led to later reforms within the Democratic party.

Ms. Adams is also credited with being a co-founder of the Council of Federated Organization (COFO). COFO was a coalition of all the freedom organizations working during the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement. She died in August 2006 at her son’s home in Baltimore, Md. She leaves four children. Her papers are at the McCain Library and Archives at the University of Southern Mississippi.


Victoria Gray
Victoria Jackson Gray Adams at the 1964 Democratic convention. Credit: George Ballis/Take Stock.