Jessie Divens Nicholas is a native of McComb, Mississippi. She grew up with her three siblings and her mother. Her father died in the army. Her mother, Ruth Divens, worked as a business woman, which allowed her to encourage her children to participant in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. Her mother would house Civil Rights workers, and Nicholas recalls conversations her mother had with leaders such as C.C. Bryant.
As a result of her participation in the Burglund High School Walkout at 12 years old, Nicholas was forced to attend school in Jackson, MS along with others who were arrested. She attended Christ the King Catholic School. During Freedom Summer (1964), Nicholas taught adults how to read so they could fill out forms. She also followed Robert ‘Bob’ Moses during his rounds and helped him. In addition, her step-father lost his job because of Nicholas’ part in the movement. She went to jail for refusing to give up her seat to a White woman, and she also spoke her mind to a judge with the permission of her mother. Nicholas helped to integrate the school, but after two days, she refused to return before the names she was called and the treatment she received. She also helped to integrate the movie theater but refused to go back. In these videos, we see the place Nicholas’ mother had in Nicholas’ involvement in the movement and her desire to have the youth learn about McComb’s part in the Civil Rights Movement.
Jessie Divens Nicholas’ oral history, part one:
Jessie Divens Nicholas’ oral history interviews can also be found here.
William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation