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Crystal R. Sanders

Crystal R. Sanders

Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies

Office Address: 311 Weaver Building
Mailing Address: 108 Weaver Building

Office Phone: (814) 863-7303


  1. PhD, Northwestern University, 2011
  2. MA, Northwestern University, 2006
  3. BA, Duke University, 2005


I am a twentieth century United States historian with a particular interest in the African American freedom struggle in the U.S. South. I am currently working on a book manuscript based on my doctoral dissertation, which was entitled, "To Be Free of Fear: Black Women's Fight for Freedom Through the Child Development Group of Mississippi." In the book project, I consider how the Child Development Group of Mississippi (CDGM), a federal Head Start program for low-income preschoolers, produced a political battle between poor black mothers and grandmothers and white southern congressmen. Between 1965 and 1968, Mississippi's black working-class participants collaborated with the federal government to seek bottom-up change in the most repressive state in the country. They moved beyond teaching shapes and colors to challenge the state's closed political system and white supremacist ideology. Black women who had previously worked as sharecroppers and domestics now had significantly higher salaries as preschool teachers in jobs that provided them with the financial freedom to vote and send their children to previously all-white schools. Their challenge antagonized a white power structure, at both the local and state levels, that was unaccustomed to financially independent and assertive blacks. It provoked opposition that significantly diminished the transformative possibilities of Head Start and other War on Poverty programs.