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:
Mrs. Young served as a Washington County Justice Court Judge in Greenville for 25 years and spent another 15 years as a Municipal Court Judge for the City of Metcalfe, MS. In 1983, she became the first African-American Justice Court Judge elected in Washington County, Mississippi.
Ms. Pryor has always been an active advocate for voter registration. In 1967, Ms. Pryor began work at the courthouse as the first African American hired in the Washington County Court House as Deputy Circuit Clerk. She was later promoted to Chief Deputy Clerk.
Ora Bee Phipps and other low income mothers decided to organize themselves and obtain a state charter for the first Head Start program in Quitman County, Mississippi. In June of 1966, a personal tragedy struck the Phipps family. Ora Bee’s husband, Armstead Phipps, Sr., suffered a heart attack and died while participating in the Meredith Mississippi March, the “March against Fear” from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi. After hearing of Mr. Phipps’ death, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made plans to stop in Marks, MS to conduct his eulogy.
On June 12, 1992, Nerissa Virginia Wilkerson Norman claimed her place in history when she was elected as the ninth and first female mayor of the City of Mound Bayou. Mayor Norman chose to receive only $300 a month for her service because of the city great debt. Under her leadership, the city was able to resolve old debts and deficits totaling nearly $400,000.
These two unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, Winson and Dovie Hudson, began trying to register to vote in 1937 ‘‘for the heck of it.” When the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law, the Hudson sisters led a massive registration drive in Leake County, signing up 500 new voters in one year.
In her long and effective teaching career, she has been runner-up for Teacher of the Year and has been awarded numerous appreciation plaques and certificates from grateful family members, students, parents, and community organizations. Her students have scored in the 98 and 99 percentile of the Georgia High School Science Graduation Test. She is especially effective with special needs students
Her role as political activist encouraged many Blacks to exercise their right to vote and had a lasting impact on the community.
Her husband’s tragic death was the impetus for launching the Baker County Movement, which was designed to bring social, political, and economic changes to Baker County. Her home became the unofficial headquarters for the Baker County Movement, and she became the unofficial coordinator for the off-shoot movements in the nearby communities in Mitchell, Terrell, and Lee counties.
In 2005, she was the first and only South Georgia and North Florida recipient of the National Jefferson Award for outstanding Public Service, an award founded by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; as well as the Georgia State Medical Association’s Community Service Award.
Though she passed literacy tests with ease, she was subpoenaed in court and, with the decision of a twelve-person jury, was finally granted the right to vote. She became an advocate for voting rights for other African-Americans in her community, teaching countless individuals to spell their names and assisting them with completing and casting their ballots.
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.