Joyce Ann Ladner was born on 12 October 1943 in Battles, Mississippi, and grew up in Palmer’s Crossing, a small community on the outskirts of Hattiesburg. After graduating in 1960 as the salutatorian of her high school class, she enrolled at Jackson State College but transferred with her sister, Dorie, to Tougaloo College a year later after Jackson State students were barred from publicly supporting efforts to desegregate public facilities in the Mississippi capital. Joyce Ladner was arrested after attempting to worship at Jackson’s all-white Galloway Methodist Church. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Tougaloo in 1964 and went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in sociology from Washington University in St. Louis. She subsequently taught at Southern Illinois University, Hunter College, and Howard University.
In 1959, while still in high school, Ladner helped organize Hattiesburg’s first National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Youth Council. She worked closely with Vernon Dahmer, Clyde Kennard, and Medgar Evers, all of whom gave their lives to the civil rights struggle. Ladner became a field representative for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and worked to register voters in Albany, Georgia, during the summer of 1963. She worked closely with organizers of the March on Washington in 1963 and the following year was a member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegation that challenged the state’s all-white delegation at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Ladner received critical acclaim for her book Tomorrow’s Tomorrow: The Black Woman (1971), which explores the influences shaping the construction of identity for African American adolescent girls living in St. Louis’s Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project. She is also the author of The Ties That Bind: Timeless Values for African American Families (1999) as well as numerous other books, scholarly articles, reports and conference proceedings, and popular magazine and newspaper articles. Her scholarly contributions have focused on African American female socialization, teenage pregnancy, cross-racial adoption, the history of sociology, race and ethnic relations, and poverty.
She served as the vice president for academic affairs and interim president of Howard University and was appointed by Pres. Bill Clinton to the Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority for Washington, D.C. Previously married to US diplomat Walter Carrington, Ladner has one son. In 1997 her work in education earned her Washingtonian magazine’s Washingtonian of the Year Award. After retiring to Florida in 2003, she became a strong supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and was seated on the steps of the US Capitol during his 2009 inauguration. She continues to speak publicly on topics related to civil rights and is working a memoir. In 2018 Jackson State University presented her with its For My People award for her contributions to African American history.
- American Program Bureau website, www.apbspeakers.com
- Bettye Collier-Thomas and V. P. Franklin, Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights–Black Power Movement (2001)
- Vicki L. Crawford, Jacqueline Anne Rouse, and Barbara Woods, Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers, 1941–1965 (1993)
- History Makers website, www.thehistorymakers.com
- Belinda Robnett, How Long? How Long?: African American Women in the Struggle for Civil Rights (1997)