Mary Salynn McCollum was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 1958, she began her first year of college at the George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, Tennessee. Her course of study focused on instruction for intellectually and developmentally disabled children.
During her junior year in college, Ms. McCollum became involved in the Nashville Non-Violent Movement, the Nashville branch of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She was an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement between 1961 and 1965. Despite pressure from her family and Peabody College to cease her involvement, she continued to work with SNCC following the Freedom Ride. She wrote the “I am a Freedom Rider” series depicting her experiences on the Freedom Ride and her subsequent jailing at the Birmingham Jail. She worked as a SNCC field secretary in different locations in the South. She was particularly active in Nashville, Tennessee; Cairo, Illinois; Charleston, Missouri; and Des Moines, Iowa.
The Salynn McCollum Papers consist of 2.085 linear feet of materials. The collection includes correspondence and writings by McCollum, as well as newspaper clippings, journal and magazine articles, and photographs. The majority of the material represents McCollum’s participation with the Civil Rights Movement during the first half of the 1960s. Many items were generated while she was a field secretary for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).