The Delta Ministry, an ambitious self-help initiative for Mississippi

“Through the long, hot summer and the long cold winter, Delta Ministry looks ahead: to a total ministry, to growing self-respect and self-determination among delta Negroes, to a bold new start for some.”  So begins the text of a wonderful brochure (found in the SHC’s Delta Health Center Records) that tells the story of the Delta Ministry.

The Delta Ministry was a project begun in 1964 by the New York-based National Council of Churches to provide support to African Americans in the Mississippi Delta region. The project not only sought to bring economic aid to black Mississippians but also encouraged voter registration and greater political involvement.  According to Mark Newman’s 2004 book, Divine Agitators: The Delta Ministry and Civil Rights in Mississippi, the Delta Ministry began with a 10-year mandate but ended up stretching its support for the citizens of the Delta into the 1980s.  This, according to Newman, filled the vacuum created as other civil rights organizations, such as SNCC and CORE, discontinued similar programs of support for poor blacks in the Mississippi Delta.

The group has a fascinating story, much more deftly told by Newman’s extensively-researched book than I could do in this space.  The organization’s history deserves greater attention, it deserves even more ink from historians writing on the legacy of the American Civil Rights Movement.  As an intro, we hope you’ll read and enjoy this Delta Ministry brochure.   Click on each thumbnail to see a larger version of the image.  Finally, if you’re interested in digging deeper, there are other great materials in Box 59 of the SHC’s Delta Health Center Records.

One thought on “The Delta Ministry, an ambitious self-help initiative for Mississippi”

  1. Dear Folks,

    I’m not sure if this post will be of interest. I am writing on behalf of my deceased brother-in-law, Alexander Shimkin. Alec worked in the Movement from 1965-1967 in Edwards MS and other locations in Holmes County. He wrote of his work and support for the Delta Ministry of N.C.C.

    Alec died in 1972, reporting on the American war with Vietnam. His family is holding a dedication service for his remains, if repatriated, to Pittsburgh, PA in October 2022.

    At this service, Alec’s cousin, Peter Cook, the current Executive Director of the New York State Council of Churches, will offer a euology. In addition, a dutch filmmaker will begin filming a 90 minute documentary about Alec’s life.

    If you know of anyone who worked with Alec in MS please pass this post on to that person. Then I will follow up with more information about both the service and the documentary film.

    Thank you.

    Gary Sorock
    Eleanor Shimkin-Sorock
    Pittsburgh, PA

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