Overcoming Racial Adversity during the Civil Rights Movement

“In the state of Mississippi, [Head Start] was something that was not wanted. The establishment did not want the program because it was going to take the workers from the field to have to take care of the children.”

In honor of Black History Month, NHSA would like to highlight Dr. Marvin Hogan and his lifelong commitment to the Friends of Children of Mississippi, Inc., Head Start/Early Head Start in Jacksonville, Mississippi. For the past 54 years, Dr. Hogan has served in his current position of executive director of the award-winning agency.

Dr. Hogan’s steadfast leadership has enabled Friends of Children of Mississippi to thrive ever since the early inceptions of Head Start in Mississippi when the federally-funded program was considered radical and was not wanted by those in power. At that time, Dr. Hogan along with other advocates initially worked for 13 weeks with no federal funds until the state of Mississippi finally granted the financial support.

NHSA Communications Specialist Ashton Pellom and Communications Intern Emmanuel Iheke sat down for an interview with Dr. Hogan as he described the struggles of overcoming racial adversity in the early childhood education field and how that experience shaped his community and program today.

Dr. Hogan started by describing the negative impacts some leaders in Mississippi predicted would come from creating a Head Start program in their community: “In that time, there was no support from anyone, especially the state government. In the state of Mississippi, [Head Start] was something that was not wanted. The establishment did not want the program because it was going to take the workers from the field to have to take care of the children. Eventually, there was too much governance that was being pushed forward in Mississippi to initiate programs like Head Start.”

Dr. Hogan mentioned his initial decision to join Head Start, and how it developed from an ultimatum put in place by his father. “I had no idea, and no desire, to get involved in Head Start. I was doing what I really wanted to do and that is coach. My dad challenged me to come to Jacksonville, Mississippi. He said that he wanted me to be a part of the program and if I didn’t come to Jacksonville, he never would speak to me again. So, as a result of that, I moved to Jacksonville, Mississippi.”

“A group of people got together and they met on Fair Street, the mecca of where all civil rights efforts were generated at that time. When they got here to Jackson, they said well, what are we going to call ourselves? Everyone said, well we are all friends and we did come here to support children, so one lady said, that’s a good name right there — Friends of Children. They said, well, how are we going to operate? Well, we are going to operate like we did before, we are just going to trust in God.”

Dr. Hogan continued, “After two weeks, I asked them where were the books. They said, ‘We don’t have any books. We don’t have any money.’ We operated for 13 weeks without any federal or state money — the state was not supporting the effort of Head Start, and as a result of that, we started ‘begging,’ pleading with people for donations, contributions, and whatever.

Dr. Hogan extended the conversation to speak on how the Friends of Children persevered despite the opposition, “It was quite the experience because, to know the establishment was against everything that you put forward and they tried to do everything they could to put you under, but it was the support from people that [made us believe] we were not going to let this turn us around. The people back then were very strong in terms of committed to a challenge that they felt was beneficial for their children and themselves… It’s still happening now.

People have to realize that to break that cycle of poverty, you have to work together. If you don’t work together, you can hang it up.”

When asked if he would count himself as a civil rights leader, Dr. Hogan responded, “I never did think of myself as a civil rights individual. I’m just a country boy from Mississippi who wanted to make a difference in the lives of children and families. That’s all I’ve ever done.”

NHSA would like to take this time to honor all the contributions Dr. Hogan and the Friends of Children of Mississippi made to both the Mississippi community, and the Head Start family at large.

Thank you for all you’ve done.

In honor of Black History Month, NHSA highlighted the legacy of influential Head Start champions. In addition to Dr. Hogan, we highlighted civil rights activist and acting executive director of Albina Head Start, Ron Herdon.

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National Head Start Association

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