The Struggle of Struggles
A new edition of an autobiography that chronicles the everyday conflicts, losses, and triumphs of the civil rights struggle
Named one of five best books on women in the Civil Rights Movement by Wall Street Journal
From 1955 to 1975, Vera Pigee (1924–2007) put her life and livelihood on the line with grassroots efforts for social change in Mississippi, principally through her years of leadership in Coahoma County’s NAACP. Known as the “Lady of Hats,” coined by NAACP executive secretary Roy Wilkins, Pigee was a businesswoman, mother, and leader. Her book, The Struggle of Struggles, offers a detailed view of the daily grind of organizing for years to open the state’s closed society. Fearless, forthright, and fashionable, Pigee also suffered for her efforts at the hands of white supremacists and those unwilling to accept strong women in leadership. She wrote herself into the histories, confronted misinformation, and self-published one of the first autobiographies from the era. Women like her worked, often without accolade or recognition, in their communities all over the country, but did not document their efforts in this way.
The Struggle of Struggles, originally published in 1975, spotlights the gendered and generational tensions within the civil rights movement. It outlines the complexity, frustrations, and snubs, as well as the joy and triumphs that Pigee experienced and witnessed in the quest for a fairer and more equitable nation. This new edition begins with a detailed introductory essay by historian Françoise N. Hamlin, who interviewed Pigee and her daughter in the few years preceding their passing, as well as their coworkers and current activists. In addition to the insightful Introduction, Hamlin has also provided annotations to the original text for clarity and explanation, along with a timeline to guide a new generation of readers.
"Vera Pigee’s books were (until now) self-published, out-of-print, and not readily available. She had sold them at NAACP conferences and when she traveled to speak, but they were never uniformly distributed. . . . Republishing these books creates a more permanent space for her as one of the first in the slew of civil rights autobiographies that have emerged since."- Françoise N. Hamlin
"The Struggle of Struggles is a must-read for anyone interested in civil rights, Mississippi, and women’s history."- Tiyi M. Morris, associate professor of African American and African studies, The Ohio State University at Newark
"In this labor of love, Françoise N. Hamlin excavates Vera Pigee's memoirs self-published in the 1970s. The Struggle of Struggles combines this brief biography with reflections on how easy it is to lose grassroots sources, the kind that give us glimpses of women like Mrs. Pigee, women who were at the heart of the civil rights movement."- Emilye Crosby, editor of Civil Rights History from the Ground Up: Local Struggles, a National Movement
"To get a sense for how the civil rights movement’s energy flowed from charismatic leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. to organizers such as Ella Baker and on to the members of the community who shed their fears to march, protest, and vote, there’s no better book than The Struggle of Struggles. . . . Pigee’s book bristles with raw emotion and includes the kind of intimate detail seldom seen in popular accounts of the struggle."- Jonathan Eig, The Wall Street Journal