We believe in celebrating the legacies and good work of rural Black women across the South. The Southern Rural Black Women’s Hall of Fame serves to do just that: to preserve, recognize and rejoice in the accomplishments of inspiring rural Black women throughout the years. These inductees are leaders and inspirations in their communities and deserve recognition for their work for the rights and betterment of others.
Our inductees and their legacies are honored in the following categories:
Laurena, a life-long educator across several Alabama counties, worked first as a teacher and then as an assistant principal, impacting and shaping the lives of children.
Idessa was a Civil Rights activist who advocated against discriminatory hiring and helped change the Jim Crow hiring practices in 1950’s Alabama.
As a pioneer for the childcare industry in the state of Alabama, Elizabeth helped establish the first child care center in Wilcox County.
As an accomplished jazz musician, educator and activist, Mrs. Lee was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1992.
Mrs. Craig was the first woman and first African-American elected to the Choctaw County Board of Education.
At the age of 18, in October, 1955, Mary Louise was ordered to relinquish her seat on the city bus line to a white passenger. Her refusal landed her in jail charged with failure to obey segregation orders 40 days before the arrest of Rosa Parks. The action played a monumental role in setting the foundation of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Thelma was a Civil Rights pioneer and remains the only surviving member of the Women’s Political Council which worked to rectify the mistreatment of blacks who rode the city’s buses and those who were unjustly interrogated when they tried to vote.
Mary donated land to “Tent City,” a refuge for Black tenant farmers thrown off their land for registering to vote, which was organized in 1965 by local residents and SNCC.
As a Tuskegee Institute licensed and trained midwife for 40 years, she delivered over 400 babies and worked for the Wilcox County Health Department and is the oldest living member of Miller Ferry Normal School.
As Interim Chief Executive Officer/Medical Director for the Jefferson County Health System, Sandra is best known for her tireless efforts to provide healthcare to underserved populations.
In the 1980s she co-founded the Southern Rural Women’s Network, an association of rural women in seven southern states. The women shared resources and expertise and supported each other’s concerns around quality of life issues.
Gwendolyn was a youth organizer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. As field director for the Southern Rainbow Education Project, Dr. Patton organized around multi-racial/cultural issues on the principle that grassroots people can act on their own collective behalf as advocates and leaders.
Her activism to improve the public schools and promote fairness in student testing, staff and faculty hiring, voter registration and education have had the cumulative effect of changing countless lives in Choctaw County.
As a drum major for justice active in the voters’ and civil rights movements, Arzula helped African Americans get elected to public office and she herself became a clerk in the office of Sheriff Prince Arnold, the first African American Sheriff in Wilcox County.
In 1994, she and her brother Eugene Edwards founded the Save the Youth Program. This non-profit organization provides young people with positive directions and alternatives to at-risk behavior.
Ethel brokered a land deal that procured eighty acres of farmland. The food and produce of this farm supported not only her family, but also the Sardis community at large. Discrimination kept Ms. Williams-Mahorn from voting until she reached age 65. She was a Civil Rights activist who educated others to know their rights.
In the 1960s during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Mrs. Williams traveled as a NAACP coordinator of voter registration for five counties in central Alabama. Even after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, white registrars in the South still refused to enroll Black voters. Many believe that it was Mrs. Williams’ letter to President Lyndon B. Johnson that prompted the federal voter registrars to come to central Alabama and register Blacks in significant numbers.
Sue acted as a champion for justice who participated in the Civil Rights Movement and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Camden, AL to protest extreme voting restrictions imposed on colored citizens of the area.
Carolyn served as the church secretary for the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. On September 15, 1963 she received the fateful call that preceded the church’s bombing. Though she survived, four girls — her friends — lost their lives. McKinstry authored the book “While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age During the Civil Rights Movement.”
She was arrested in May 1951 for sitting in the front of the bus in Montgomery, AL.