Date of Award

Winter 12-2022

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Rebecca Tuuri

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Andrew P. Haley

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Kevin Greene

Committee Member 3 School



This thesis examines the participation of domestic workers in the Civil Rights Movement, specifically in Gulf South bus boycotts in Baton Rouge, Montgomery, and Tallahassee; voter registration efforts in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida; and Head Start work in those same Deep South states. Domestic workers engaged in activism by joining unions, women's movements, and the Communist Party to improve their treatment in Northern and Southern cities. Modern historians have expanded their research to explore the participation of domestic workers in the Civil Rights Movement, especially in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In some cases, researchers also have explored the complicated relationships domestic workers had with their employers. By looking at oral histories and secondary historical works on domestic workers, this thesis argues that Deep South domestic workers were significant participants in some of the most prominent civil rights demonstrations. They boycotted buses and worked with local groups to increase voter registration, improve education, and promote protests. These actions reinforced the idea that though domestic workers faced low pay, long hours, and oppressive work conditions, they also were activists for themselves, their families, and their communities.