Annie Devine played a significant role in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) and the civil rights movement as a whole. Born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1912, Annie Bell Robinson moved with her family as a young girl to Canton, Mississippi, and was raised there. After attending Tougaloo Southern Christian College (later Tougaloo College), she returned to Canton, working as an insurance agent.
Devine was a leader in her church, and activists who came to Canton with the Congress of Racial Equality noted her unique and influential position in her community as a sounding board and voice of advice. According to movement historian Tom Dent, Devine served as a foil for the more outspoken C. O. Chinn, another community leader. This complementary leadership worked to unite the town’s black community. Devine capitalized on this community to encourage voter registration.
Together with Fannie Lou Hamer and Victoria Gray Adams, Annie Devine helped start the MFDP, and the three women were selected as the party’s delegates to the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, where they unsuccessfully sought to prevent the delegates from Mississippi’s all-white Democratic Party from being seated. In the film Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders (2002), Adams notes that Devine brought the wisdom to their three-woman group. Despite their lack of political success, they kept the national media spotlight on Mississippi during a general lull in attention to the civil rights movement. According to the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission’s files, Devine also played a significant role in organizing James Meredith’s 1966 March against Fear. Devine continued her public service work as a member of the MFDP by chairing a 1966 meeting of the Medical Committee on Human Rights at which the committee devised a plan to test equal rights in Mississippi hospitals and clinics. The committee planned to send African Americans to hospitals and clinics and then document the quality of their care and treatment with questionnaires.
Devine continued her work as a public servant, eventually working with National Negro Women of America and other projects. She died in Ridgeland on 22 August 2000.
- John Dittmer, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi (1994)
- Fannie Lou Hamer Statue Committee website, www.fannielouhamer.info
- Chana Kai Lee, For Freedom’s Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (1999)
- Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Sovereignty Commission Online website, http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/sovcom/
- Wolfgang Saxon, New York Times (1 September 2000)