The battle-scarred Child Development Group of Mississippi (CDGM)—the nation’s most bitterly attacked and fiercely defended “Head Start” program—swung back into action this month, revived by an $8 million grant grudgingly given by the U. S. Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO).
Jubilant liberal churchmen boast that the grant represents a major victory for the “church lobby” similar to its success in the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Clergymen claim it was Vice-President Hubert Humphrey’s intervention at their behest that got the money.
“The Church got emotionally swept into this matter,” says Theodore M. Berry, director of OEO’s Community Action Program, which funds Head Start. The nation-wide Head Start project provides preschool experience for poor children with an emphasis on parental involvement.
CDGM holds a warm spot in the hearts of liberal churchmen because the staff of the National Council of Churches’ Delta Ministry provided impetus and leadership during CDGM’s early days. The Board of Missions of the United Presbyterian Church designated its Mary Holmes Junior College in West Point, Mississippi, as legal recipient (grantee) for CDGM-earmarked funds.
CDGM has been hit by both the Left and the Right since its inception in May of 1965. White Mississippi politicians charged the program was run by civil-rights activists and northern troublemakers. Black nationalists regarded mere acceptance of federal funds as corrupt. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) members working with the group quit in disillusionment, calling the program a sell-out. CDGM supporters hail it as a grassroots crusade against poverty, oppression, and the White Power Structure.
Aaron Henry, NAACP state president, states bluntly: “It’s ...1
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