This is our first Redux of 2023 and because Monday the 16th is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we are looking back at a favorite past Mississippi Moments episode: MSM 601 Father Peter Quinn - Dr. King Comes to Hattiesburg, which aired originally on January 28, 2019.
For the interview, we are joined by Dr. Rebecca Tuuri, an associate professor of history at the USM with expertise in Civil Rights, African American, and Women’s and Gender history. She is co-director for the Center for the Study of the Gulf South and a member of the Center for Black Studies at USM. She also serves on the boards of the Gulf South Historical Association, the Mississippi Historical Society, and is the Mississippi State Scholar for the Smithsonian exhibition Voices and Votes.
Her 2018 book Strategic Sisterhood: The National Council of Negro Women in the Black Freedom Struggle won the 2019 prize for best book in Southern women's history from the Southern Association of Women Historians.
Father Peter, O. Quinn moved from his home in Ireland to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in September of 1962, shortly after being ordained into the priesthood at the age of twenty-five. His first assignment was at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and then he became the priest at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, which was an all-black church in Hattiesburg.
Father Quinn was very much involved with the youth groups including the Youth NAACP and the Catholic Youth Organization, advising and sponsoring the young people on weekly dances, ball games, and fund-raising. But also in promoting the advancement of Civil Rights by organizing boycotts, protests and picketing of whites-only businesses and facilities.
Quinn gives a hair-raising account of being shot at as two truck-loads of men attempted to run him off the road as he returned from a meeting at Vernon Dahmer's house. When Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Hattiesburg in 1968, ten days before his death, he took a nap in Father Quinn's parsonage before continuing on his journey.
PHOTO: Associated Press