Famous Civil Rights Figures Graves
Martin Luther King Jr. Nobel Prize Laureate Social Reformer. He was the recipient of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize for his work for racial equality in the United States, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the most prominent African American leader in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In the eleven-year period between 1957 and 1968, he traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action; and he wrote five books as well as numerous articles. He organized and led marches for the right to vote, desegregation, fair hiring practices, and other basic civil rights. His pleas won the support of millions of people, black and white, and made him internationally famous. Most of these rights were successfully enacted into United States law with the passage of the U.S. Civil Rights Act and the U.S. Voting Rights Act. He is perhaps most famous for his “I Have A Dream” speech, which was given in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington D.C. King was born the eldest son of Rev. Martin Luther “Daddy King” King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. The church and education were the central forces that shaped his early life. He was educated in Atlanta, graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in 1944. He then followed in the path of his maternal grandfather Rev. A.D. Williams and his own father and enrolled at Morehouse College. There he became a admirer of its president Dr. Benjamin E. Mays. Under May’s influence, King entered the ministry. He first considered studying medicine or law but decided to major in sociology, however ultimately found the call to the ministry irresistible. He served as assistant pastor to his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church while studying at Morehouse College. In February 1948 he was ordained as a Baptist Minister by his father. After graduating from Morehouse in 1948, King studied for a divinity degree at Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland, Pennsylvania, graduating in 1951. The following September he enrolled at Boston University in the Ph.D. program in systematic theology later earning his doctoral degree. There he met his future wife, Coretta Scott whom he later married in 1953. The couple had four children. In 1954 he accepted his first pastorate at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He became active with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Alabama Council on Human Relations. He was selected to head the Montgomery Improvement Association, whose boycott efforts eventually ended the city’s policies of racial segregation on public transportation resulting from the arrest of Rosa Parks. In 1957 he along with close friend Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy and others later formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization of black ministers and churches aimed to challenge racial segregation. The ideals for this organization he took from Christianity; its operational techniques from Gandhi. At the time widespread segregation existed throughout the South in public schools, transportation, recreation and such public facilities as hotels and restaurants. Many states also used various methods to deprive African Americans of their voting rights. In 1958 he was stabbed by a mentally deranged woman, while on a book tour in New York City. In 1960, King moved from Montgomery to Atlanta to devote more effort to SCLC’s work. He became co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church with his father. Throughout this time period heavy news coverage of the violence across America produced a national outcry against segregation. Under his leadership in the late 1950s and 1960s, civil disobedience and non-violent tactics, like the Washington March of 250,000 people in 1963, brought about major victories with the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights act in 1965. By the mid-1960s his role as the leader of the Civil Rights Movement was questioned by many black militants. Continued violence against civil rights workers of the south frustrated many African-American leaders. Some urged a more aggressive response to the continuing violence and began to use the slogan “Black Power.” King repeated his commitment to nonviolence, but disputes among civil rights groups over “Black Power” suggested that he no longer spoke for the movement. In 1966 he extended his campaign to slums conditions in the Northern cities of the U.S. such as Chicago and later set up the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968. He was less successful in this area since the Vietnam War distracted national attention from civil rights and urban issues. In 1967, he attacked the U.S. support of South Vietnam in the Vietnam War (1957-1975) which was denounced by supporters of the war. While organizing the Poor People’s Campaign, he went to Memphis, Tennessee, to support a strike of black garbage men. There he was shot and killed by gunman James Earl Ray at the Lorraine Motel at 6:01 in the evening. The night before he was killed, he gave his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech at Mason Temple that drew upon the biblical images of the old slave spirituals, to instill hope and at the same time seemed to anticipate his own death. As a controversial public figure whose was repeatedly praised and vilified, his life had been threatened many times. King himself had said that he did not expect to live a long life. People throughout the world mourned King’s death. His assassination produced immediate shock, grief, and anger across America. African-Americans rioted in more than 100 cities and on innumerable campuses and several lives were lost resulting in roughly $50 million in damage. His funeral in Atlanta days later was broadcast to the world. Three hundred thousand people gathered around and in Ebenezer Baptist Church. Inside the packed church included many of the country’s political leaders, as well as quite a few labor leaders, foreign dignitaries, entertainment and sports figures and leaders from numerous religious faiths. A few month’s later, the United States Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which prohibited racial discrimination in the sale and rental of most housing in the nation. The same year Coretta Scott King founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center of Non-Violent Social Change in Atlanta as a memorial to her husband. The center seeks to advance King’s philosophies of justice and nonviolence through its educational programs, exhibitions, and tours. His remains were later moved to an area what later in 1980 became known as the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, which includes The King Center, his birth home and Ebenezer Baptist Church. In 1983 Congress passed legislation to make the third Monday in January as Martin Luther King Day, a national holiday in honor of King with the first observed on January 20, 1986. Since his death, Martin Luther King Jr. has come to represent black courage and achievement, high moral leadership, and the ability of Americans to address and overcome racial divisions. He received numerous honors throughout his life and since his death including posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter in 1977, the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004 and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Major collections of his papers are now owned by Boston University, the King Center, and Morehouse College. King published five books: “Stride to Freedom” in 1958, “Strength to Love” in 1963, “Why We Can’t Wait” in 1964 “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? “ in 1967, and “The Trumpet of Conscience” in 1968.
Malcolm X. Social Reformer, Civil Rights Leader. As an activist and black leader, he advocated black pride, economic self-reliance and human civil rights. Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, to Earl Little and Louise Norton Little. His father was a Baptist lay preacher and supporter of Marcus Garvey, and was believed killed by the Black Legion, a white supremacist group in Lansing, Michigan, in 1931. When his mother was declared insane in 1939, the family was broken up and the children sent to various foster homes. Malcolm was recognized early for his intelligence, and later moved to Boston, to live with his older half-sister, Ella Little Collins. He found work as a shoeshiner at the Lindy Hop nightclub, and soon moved to New York City, where he became involved in drug dealing, racketeering, robbery, and pimping. When he was given a physical exam for the draft during World War II, he was found to be insane, which he later claimed he faked to avoid the draft. In 1946, he was arrested in Boston at the age of 20, and sentenced to ten years on charges of breaking and entering. It was in Charlestown State Prison that he received an invitation to join the Nation of Islam (NOI), a militant Islamic sect. Malcolm studied Islam and the NOI teachings, and soon became a leader within the NOI. While still in prison, he contacted NOI National Leader Elijah Muhammad by mail and began to correspond with him on an almost daily basis. In 1952, he was released from prison, and immediately went to Chicago to meet Elijah Muhammad. It was here that he adopted the last name “X,” meant to symbolize the rejection of his slave name and the absence of a proper African Muslim name. In his autobiography, he also explained that “to take one’s X is to take on a certain mystery, a certain possibility of power in the eyes of one’s peers and one’s enemies.” It was also here that the FBI began to keep a file on him. In 1953, he returned to Boston, where he soon became the leader of the local NOI Temple. His rousing and inspirational speeches and spotless personal example soon led him to be viewed as the number two man in the NOI movement, as he is largely credited with increasing NOI membership from 500 in 1952 to nearly 30,000 in 1963. On January 14, 1958, he married Betty Sanders in Lansing, Michigan; they would have six children, all girls. By 1963, Malcolm believed that Elijah Muhammad was jealous of him, and when he was censored by the NOI for commenting that President Kennedy’s assassination was “chickens coming home to roost,” he broke with the Nation of Islam to form his own Muslim Mosque, Inc, which advocated political and economic black nationalism. In April 1964, he made a Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), meeting numerous Arab leaders while there, a trip that soon proved to be life-changing. He returned to the US as a Sunni Muslim, adopting a new name, El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. He then founded the US branch of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), which he patterned after the Organization of African Unity (OAU). From this, he began to preach on human rights for all people of all races, not just black Americans. During this time, tensions between Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam increased, and he received several death threats. On February 21, 1965, while making a speech in Manhattan, a disturbance broke out, and his bodyguards rushed forward to return order to the audience. At that point, a man rushed forwarded and fired a shotgun at Malcolm, hitting him in the chest, while two other men fired handguns at him. Malcolm X died there at the age of 39. The three men who killed him, NOI members Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler, and Thomas 15X Johnson, were convicted of first degree murder. “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” written by Alex Haley, was published in 1972. In 1992, the film “Malcolm X” was released, starring actor Denzel Washington in the role of Malcolm X.
Frederick Douglass. Social Reformer, Human Rights Leader. Black American who was one of the most eminent human rights leaders of the 19th century. His oratorical and literary brilliance thrust him into the forefront of the U.S. abolition movement and he became the first black citizen to hold hight rank in the U.S government. Separated as an infant from his slave mother, he never knew his white father, Frederick lived with his grandmother on a Maryland plantation until at the age of eight, his owner sent him to Baltimore to live as a house servant with the family of Hugh Auld, whose wife defied state law by teaching the boy to read. But Auld declared that learning would make him unfit for slavery and Frederick was forced to continue his education surreptitously with the aid of schoolboys in the street. Upon the death of his master, he was returned to the plantation as a field hand at 16. Later he was hired out in Baltimore as a ship caulker. He tried to escape with the three others in 1833, but the plot was discovered before they could get away. five years later, however, he fled to New York City and and then to New Bedford, Massachsetts, where he worked as a laborer for three years, eluding slave hunters by changing his name to Douglass. Douglass helped to win many new friends for the Abolition Movement and to cement the bonds of humanitarian reform between the continents. Douglass returned with funds to purchase his freedom and also to start his own antislavery newspaper, the “North Star”, which he published from 1847 to 1860 at Rochester, New York
Booker Taliaferro Washington, Sr. Social Reformer. Born a slave on the James Burroughs’s Plantation in Hale’s Ford, Franklin County, Virginia, he was 9 years old when slavery was abolished. He attended and graduated from Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in 1875. In 1881 he was selected to head Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, which is now Tuskegee University. Booker believed in hard work, self-education and economic independence. He talks about his childhood in his biography “Up From Slavery”, which was published in 1901. April 7, 1940, he was the first African American placed on a United States postage stamp
Medgar Wiley Evers. Civil Rights Leader, Social Reformer. As field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Mississippi, his assassination galvanized the Civil Rights Movement. Known today more for his struggles for civil rights in Mississippi and his untimely death than for his writings, Medgar Evers nevertheless left behind an impressive record of achievement. He was, by all accounts, a hardworking, thoughtful, and somewhat quiet man. Medgar Wiley Evers was born July 2, 1925, near Decatur, Mississippi, and attended school there until he left school for the army in 1943. Raised in a small central Mississippi town, Evers absorbed his parent’s work ethic and strong religious values early. Friends remembered him as a serious child with an air of maturity about him. After serving in Normandy during World War II, he got his high school diploma and attended Alcorn College (now Alcorn State University), majoring in business administration. While at Alcorn, he was a member of the debate team, the college choir and the football and track teams, and he also held several student offices and was editor of the campus newspaper for two years and the annual for one year. In recognition of his accomplishments at Alcorn, he was listed in Who’s Who in American Colleges. At Alcorn, Evers met Myrlie Beasley, of Vicksburg, and the next year, they were married on December 24, 1951. He received his B. A. degree the next semester and the couple moved to Mound Bayou, Mississippi, during which time Evers began to establish local chapters of the NAACP throughout the Delta and organizing boycotts of gasoline stations that refused to allow blacks to use their restrooms. He worked in Mound Bayou as an insurance agent with Magnolia Mutual Insurance until 1954, the year a Supreme Court decision ruled school segregation unconstitutional. Despite the court’s ruling, Evers applied for and was denied admission to the University of Mississippi Law School, but his attempt to integrate the state’s oldest public university attracted the attention of the NAACP’s national office, and that same year he was appointed Mississippi’s first field secretary for the NAACP. He had two main roles – to recruit and enroll new members, and to investigate and publicize the racists terrorism experienced by African Americans. Evers and his wife moved to Jackson, where they worked together to set up the NAACP office, and he began investigating violent crimes committed against African Americans and sought ways to prevent them. A dangerous job, Evers was followed, mocked, threatened and beaten while he traveled throughout Mississippi. Organizations like the white Citizens’ Councils and the State Sovereignty Committee spied on him. His boycott of Jackson merchants in the early 1960s attracted national attention and his efforts to have James Meredith admitted to the University of Mississippi in 1962 brought much needed federal help for which he had been soliciting. Meredith was admitted to Ole Miss, a major step in securing civil rights in the state, but and ensuing riot on campus left two people dead, and Ever’s involvement in this and other activities increased the hatred many people felt toward him. In May 1963, a month before Evers was murdered, someone threw a bomb into his garage. Not only did Evers continue the NAACP’s long-standing research on lynching, he also worked on the legal front, filing petitions and organizing protests against the Jim Crow segregation that still made it impossible for African Americans to go to movie theaters, eat in restaurants, or make use of public libraries, parks, and pools. Throughout the spring of 1963 he was the leader of a series of boycotts, meetings, and public appearances that were designed to bring Mississippi out of its racist past. Just before midnight on June 11, 1963, as he was returning home, Medgar Evers was shot in the back by an assassin’s bullet in the driveway of his home. He died a few minutes later on June 12. Five thousand people marched through the streets of Jackson to view Evers’s body on June 15, 1963. Twenty thousand people black and white leaders from around the nation including Roy Wilkins and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. attended his funeral and then gathered at Arlington National Cemetery for his interment. Following his death, Evers’s brother, Charles, took over his position as state field secretary for the NAACP. Evers’s accussed killer, a white supremacist named Byron De La Beckwith, stood trial twice in the 1960s, but in both cases the all-white juries could not reach a verdict. Finally, in a third trial on February 5, 1994 (and thirty-one years after Evers’s murder) Beckwith was finally convicted and sentenced to life in prision. The legacy of Medgar Evers is everywhere present in the Mississippi of today. This peaceful man, who constantly urged that “violence is not the way” but who paid for his beliefs with his life, was a prominent voice in the struggle for civil rights in Mississippi. Many tributes have been paid to Medgar Evers over the years, including a book by his widow, For Us, the Living, but perhaps the greatest tribute can be found in changes noted in Mississippi Black History Makers.
Rosa Parks. Civil Rights Pioneer and Social Activist. An African-American working woman, she became most famous for her refusal in 1955 to give up a bus seat to a white man who was getting on the bus, an incident that led to her arrest and inspired Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr to led the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott, one of his first Civil Rights actions. Because of this action, she was called the “Mother of the Modern Civil Rights Movement.” She was also the first woman to ever lie in state in the United States Capitol, and the United States Flag was flown at half-staff in her honor over all public buildings on the day of her funeral. Born Rosa Louise McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama, she was the daughter of James and Leona McCauley, a carpenter and a school teacher. When her parents separated, she moved with her mother to Pine Level, Alabama, outside Montgomery, where she grew up on a farm. Initially home schooled, she enrolled in the Industrial School for Girls in Montgomery when she was 11, later dropping out to care for her ill mother and grandmother. In 1932, she married Raymond Parks, a barber, who helped her earn her high school diploma. Raymond was a member of the NAACP, which she later joined in 1943, becoming elected secretary of the local Montgomery chapter. In 1944, she worked at Maxwell Air Force Base, where segregation was not permitted in federal facilities, and it made her realize that racial integration was possible. In 1955, Rosa was not the first African-American to refuse to give up her seat to a white person; however, it was her refusal that sparked the Civil Rights movement into becoming a significant movement for creating change in America. Parks was fined $10 plus $4 in court costs for violating local city law, and immediately, with civil rights movement support, appealed her conviction. The bus boycott lasted 381 days, and placed Dr. Martin Luther King firmly into the national headlines. In January 1956, a lawsuit entered into federal court against the city of Montgomery struck down the city law as unconstitutional, forcing integration on the buses, and with that ruling the bus boycott ended. After her arrest, Rosa became famous in the growing civil rights movement, however, she was fired from her job. In 1957, she and Raymond moved to Hampton, Virginia, both to find work and because of disagreements with Dr. King and other leaders over civil rights strategy. After several months in Virginia, they moved to Detroit, Michigan, where she worked as a seamstress, until Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) hired her in 1965 to work as his secretary. She continued to work for him until 1988, when she retired. Her husband died in 1977 from cancer. In 1992, she published her autobiography, “Rosa Parks: My Story,” and in 1995, published a revised autobiography, “Quiet Strength.” She died in her apartment in a Detroit nursing home at the age of 92. She was the 31st person, the first woman, and the second African-American (the first was Jacob Chestnut) to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. She was interred next to her husband and her mother at the Detroit Woodlawn Cemetery’s mausoleum. She has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including a Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Alabama Governor’s Medal of Honor for Extraordinary Courage, in addition to over two dozen honorary doctorate degrees from various universities and colleges.
Dred Scott. Slavery Figure. He was the center figure in the 1857 “Dred Scott” Supreme Court case in which the United States Supreme Court, led by staunch slavery proponent Justice Roger B. Taney, ruled that Dred Scott, as an African American, was not a United States citizen and had no right to sue for his freedom. This decision nullified the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (which was legislation that restricted slavery in certain territories) as being unconstitutional, and contributed to the sectional strife in the 1850s that led to the Civil War.
Harriet Robinson Scott. Former slave Harriet Robinson met her future husband Dred Scott at Fort Snelling, where she had arrived a few years before him. She was the slave of Indian agent Major Lawrence Taliaferro, who brought her from his family’s home in Virginia. Slavery wasn’t legal in the Wisconsin Territory, where Fort Snelling was located. Because they had lived on free land, Dred and Harriet later decided to sue for their freedom and that of their two daughters. Now living in St. Louis, Harriet was introduced to lawyer Francis Murdoch who had filed petitions for freedom on behalf of slave women before. Most with cases as strong as Harriet’s had won their freedom. After Dred’s request to buy his family’s freedom was denied by their current owner Irene Emerson, Harriet convinced Dred to file petitions in court. On April 6, 1846, two petitions were filed in Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis—one by Dred Scott and the other by his wife Harriet. About a year later, the cases made their way before a judge. In spite of the fact that former owner Henry Taylor Blow was one of the witnesses who testified on the Scott’s behalf, they lost the case. A new trial began in 1850 and the jury declared that Dred and Harriet had been slaves, but were now free. Mrs. Emerson’s lawyers immediately filed an appeal. In March 1852, the Missouri Supreme Court declared that the Scott family was slaves. Then Northern lawyer Roswell Field heard about the case. He knew that the U.S. Constitution could be used to protect the Scott family’s freedom and that the case could be argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. In May 1854, their suit came before the federal court in St. Louis, where they lost the case. Finally, in 1856, the case reached the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., where the Scott’s appeal for liberty was struck down for the final time. Within a few months, their ownership was transferred to from Mrs. Emerson to Taylor Blow, a son of one of the former owners of Dred Scott. He signed freedom papers for the Scott family, but Dred died of tuberculosis not long afterwards. Harriet continued to live in St. Louis, doing laundry and ironing, until her death.
Harriet Tubman. Social Reformer. A fugitive slave and abolitionist leader during a period of profound racial, social, and economic upheaval in the United States, she became known as the most famous guide of the Underground Railroad, a secret network that during the mid-1800s helped slaves escape to freedom in the northern United States and Canada. Nicknamed the “Moses of her people,” she was never caught and she never lost a slave to the Southern militia. Standing only five feet tall and suffering from sudden sleep seizures because of a head injury received as a child, Tubman nevertheless possessed the courage and resolve to face physical danger many times while pursuing freedom for her people in nineteenth-century America. Originally named Araminta Ross, she was born into slavery on a plantation in Dorchester County near Cambridge, Maryland, about 1820, one of eleven children of Benjamin and Harriet (Greene) Ross who provided a loving and nurturing environment for their children. They shared with there children a strong religious faith and love of African American folklore. Her father taught her a knowledge of the woods that later helped her in her rescue missions. Tubman’s grandparents on both sides had come to America in chains from Africa. At age eleven Tubman adopted her mother’s name. Unlike some slaves who were sold to landowners in the deep South, Tubman experienced relative stability while growing up. From her early childhood she had to work as a weaver, maid, child’s nurse, and even field hand for neighboring families who hired her services from her owner, Edward Broadas. At age thirteen while working in the field one day for a farmer named, Barrett, a fellow slave left his field work early and went to a general store. The overseer caught up with the man and started to bind him for a whipping. The slave suddenly bolted out the door, however, and as he ran away, Tubman tried to shield him. She was knocked unconscious with a fractured skull when the enraged overseer threw a two-pound weight at the escaping slave. The injury to her head was quite serious, and although she eventually recovered, Tubman suffered for the rest of her life from recurring seizures that plunged her into unconsciousness without warning. In 1844, she married John Tubman, a free African American from the Cambridge area. Little is known about her relationship with her husband and they had no children, but there are reports that he was not an ambitious man and that he thought his wife worried too much about her condition as a slave. Though Tubman was illiterate, she had a probing mind especially in regard to the legal status of blacks. She soon discovered that one of her mother’s owners, Mary Patterson, had died young and unmarried, leaving no provisions for her. A lawyer told Tubman that her mother therefore unknowingly was legally free at the time. This information further embittered Tubman toward the institution of slavery and the legal and social system that supported it. From 1847 to 1849 she worked for Dr. Anthony Thompson, Jr., a physician, real estate speculator, and Methodist clergyman. The death of her owner, young Brodas, in 1849 gave rise to rumors that she and his other slaves were to be sold south, and rather than face this prospect, she soon broke for freedom, alone and unaided, and made her way to Philadelphia. “I had crossed the line of which I had so long been dreaming,” Tubman later remembered. “I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom.” She missed her family and immediately set into motion a plan to rescue them. Finding work as a cook and domestic, Tubman saved her wages to finance her repeated trips into Maryland to free her relatives and others which eventually lead to the freedom of three hundred slaves. Her missions were extremely dangerous and demanded great strength and endurance, both physically and mentally. Tubman often disguised herself as an old woman to aid her in her daring missions and her familiarity with the Bible as well as the music and folklore of the day allowed her to use religious scriptures and songs as a kind of code that alerted slaves to her presence, signaled danger, or let them know when it was safe to come out of hiding. She possessed leadership qualities that were quickly recognized by men and women she escorted to freedom and the abolitionists with whom she worked with. In addition to her commanding presence, Tubman made up for her small stature by carrying a long rifle and threatened to kill anyone who tried to turn back or stop her. By 1857 she had freed her entire family, including her aging parents. This all brought Tubman in contact with prominent abolitionists in the North including John Brown, William H. Seward, Susan B. Anthony, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the Alcott family. These individuals supported Tubman’s work financially and welcomed her into their homes when she needed shelter. During all this, slave owners who regarded her as a troublemaker offered huge rewards for her capture which once totaled $40,000. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850 which made freedom precarious even for African Americans living in the North. Tubman was forced to began leading slaves into Canada, where they enjoyed complete safety under protection of Great Britain. From 1851 to 1857, Tubman lived intermittently in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. She then moved to Auburn, New York, and settled there permanently with her parents after the Civil War. During the Civil War, Tubman broadened the scope of her activities serving as a nurse, scout, and spy for the Union Army in South Carolina. During one military campaign, she helped free more than 750 slaves. She also taught newly-freed blacks how to become self-sufficient. After the war, Tubman returned to Auburn and devoted herself to those she felt needed her help the most-children and the elderly. She cared for her parents, raised funds for schools, for former slaves, collected clothes for destitute children, found housing for the elderly and assisted the poor and disabled. She worked closely with African American churches that had raised money for the Underground Railroad and provided overnight shelter for runaway slaves. With her characteristic penchant for action, Tubman purchased twenty-five acres of land adjoining her house in 1896. Seven years later, with the help of the AME Zion Church, she built the Harriet Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Colored People. It officially opened its doors in 1908. She also remarried after the war. Her first husband, John Tubman, did not join her after she fled to freedom, and he died in 1867. In 1869 she married Nelson Davis, twenty-two years her junior and a former slave who had served in the Union Army. The marriage lasted twenty years until his death. Despite the acclaim that had come Tubman’s way as a result of her Underground Railroad activities, she always had to struggle against poverty. Tubman used the proceeds from the 1886 book Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her People to help pay off her farm. She spent the last two years of her life as a resident of her own home (which is now a national landmark) for the aged poor, where she died of pneumonia at about ninety-three years old on March 10, 1913. Tubman was buried with military honors
Addie Mae Collins. Murder Victim, Civil Rights Figure. Born the daughter of Julius and Alice Collins, she was one of seven children. She attended Hill Elementary School and was an enthusiastic softball player and budding artist. She was a member of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham which was, due to the spacious basement auditorium, the center for meetings of the civil rights movement. On Sunday morning, September 15, 1963, several members of the KKK tunneled under the church and planted 122 sticks of dynamite near what was the girls’ basement rest room. At about 10:22 AM, twenty-six children were entering the basement assembly room for closing prayers, five girls were apparently changing into their choir robes. At 10:19 AM the bomb exploded, blowing a hole in the east side of the church, shattered windows, walls, and doors and injuring or killing 24 people. Sarah Collins, Addie Mae’s sister, lost her right eye. When the debris was searched for survivors, the bodies of the four young girls were found; Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, and Carole Robertson. The murders touched off nationwide outrage. Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, and Cynthia Wesley were interred during joint funeral attended by over 8,000 mourners. Despite the outrage and an FBI investigation, however, no one was charged with the crime. It wasn’t until 1977 that anyone was charged, at which time a Klan leader was convicted for the murders. Another two suspects were charged and convicted in 2001 and 2002, a fourth suspect died before charges were brought. The song “Birmingham Sunday,” recorded by Joan Baez memorialized the victims of the bombing. In 1997 a documentary film on the bombing called “4 Little Girls” was released. A youth center dedicated to her was established in Birmingham.
Carol Denise McNair. Murder Victim. Born Carol Denise McNair, the eldest child of Chris and Maxine McNair a photo shop owner and a school teacher. She attended Center Street Elementary School where her she counted Condoleeza Rice among her school friends. She was a member of the Brownies and played baseball, and had a well developed social conscious, helping to raise money for charity by staging plays, dance routines, and poetry readings in the family carport. She was a member of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham which was, due to the spacious basement auditorium, the center for meetings of the civil rights movement. On Sunday morning, September 15, 1963, several members of the KKK tunneled under the church and planted 122 sticks of dynamite near what was the girls’ basement rest room. At about 10:22 AM, twenty-six children were entering the basement assembly room for closing prayers, five girls were apparently changing into their choir robes. At 10:19 AM the bomb exploded, blowing a hole in the east side of the church, shattered windows, walls, and doors and injuring or killing 24 people. When the debris was searched for survivors, the bodies of the four young girls were found; Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, and Carole Robertson. The murders touched off nationwide outrage. Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, and Cynthia Wesley were interred during joint funeral attended by over 8,000 mourners. Despite the outrage and an FBI investigation, however, no one was charged with the crime. It wasn’t until 1977 that anyone was charged, at which time a Klan leader was convicted for the murders. Another two suspects were charged and convicted in 2001 and 2002, a fourth suspect died before charges were brought. The song “Birmingham Sunday,” recorded by Joan Baez memorialized the victims of the bombing. In 1997 a documentary film on the bombing called “4 Little Girls” was released.
Cynthia Dionne Wesley. Murder Victim. She was the first adopted daughter of Claude and Gertrude Wesley, both of whom were teachers. She attended Ullman High School where she excelled in math, reading, and band. She was a member of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham which was, due to the spacious basement auditorium, the center for meetings of the civil rights movement. On Sunday morning, September 15, 1963, several members of the KKK tunneled under the church and planted 122 sticks of dynamite near what was the girls’ basement rest room. At about 10:22 AM, as 26 children were entering the basement assembly room for closing prayers, the bomb exploded, blowing a hole in the east side of the church and injuring dozens. When the debris was searched for survivors, the bodies of four young girls were found: Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, and Carole Robertson. The murders touched off nationwide outrage. Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, and Cynthia Wesley were interred during joint funeral attended by over 8,000 mourners. Despite the outrage and an FBI investigation, however, no one was charged with the crime. It wasn’t until 1977 that anyone was charged, at which time a Klan leader was convicted for the murders. Another two suspects were charged and convicted in 2001 and 2002, a fourth suspect died before charges were brought. The song “Birmingham Sunday,” recorded by Joan Baez memorialized the victims of the bombing. In 1997 a documentary film on the bombing called “4 Little Girls” was released.
Carole Rosamond Robertson. Murder Victim. She was born the third child of Alpha and Alvin Robertson. Her father was a band master at the local elementary school, her mother was a librarian. She attended Wilkerson Elementary School where she sang in the choir. She was a straight A student at Parker High School where she was also a member of the marching band and science club. She was a Girl Scout and belonged to Jack and Jill of America. She was a member of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham which was, due to the spacious basement auditorium, the center for meetings of the civil rights movement. On Sunday morning, September 15, 1963, several members of the KKK tunneled under the church and planted 122 sticks of dynamite near what was the girls’ basement rest room. At about 10:22 AM, twenty-six children were entering the basement assembly room for closing prayers, five girls were apparently changing into their choir robes. At 10:19 AM the bomb exploded, blowing a hole in the east side of the church, shattering windows, walls, and doors and injuring or killing 24 people. When the debris was searched for survivors, the bodies of the four young girls were found; Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, and Carole Robertson. The murders touched off nationwide outrage. Despite the outrage and an FBI investigation, however, no one was charged with the crime. It wasn’t until 1977 that anyone was charged, at which time a Klan leader was convicted for the murders. Another two suspects were charged and convicted in 2001 and 2002, a fourth suspect died before charges were brought. The song “Birmingham Sunday,” recorded by Joan Baez, memorialized the victims of the bombing. In 1997 a documentary film on the bombing called “4 Little Girls” was released. The Carole Robertson Center for Learning in Chicago, a social service agency that serves children and their families, was named in her honor.
Antonio Maceo Walker. A. Maceo Walker, 85, a civil rights pioneer and banker who provided financial backing to help fund the dreams of thousands of black families and businessmen, died June 8 in Memphis, TN. Francis Hospital. He was an executive with Universal Life and Insurance and chairman of the board of that company and Tri-State Bank until his death, was one of the first blacks in modern times to be appointed to a city board. He was the son of the late Dr. Joseph Edison Walker and Lelia O’Neill Walker, born in 1909, in Indianola, Miss. At age 11, he moved with his family to Memphis, where his father started the Universal Life Insurance Co. in the 1920s. The business became one of the nation’s biggest life insurance companies. Walker was appointed to the Memphis Transit Authority board in July, 1961, by Mayor Henry Loeb. Ebony magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential Negroes in the United States in 1963. He had been active in the Negro Chamber of Commerce, the Abe Scharff YMCA, Memphis Urban League, the old Memphis Committee on Community Relations. He was a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and a member of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church. Walker attended LeMoyne High School, where he was a member of the football and baseball teams. He received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Fisk University in Nashville in 1930, and later earned a master’s degree in business from New York University, and a master’s in mathematics from the University of Michigan. Walker received an honorary doctorate from Wilberforce University in Ohio in 1959. As a student, Walker sold insurance during summer breaks. Later, he worked in the audit and other departments at Universal Life Insurance Co. He was named to the board of Universal Life in 1935, and became president of the company in 1952 when his father stepped down from that post. Walker helped his father organize the Tri-State Bank in 1946 and served as its vice president until he was elevated to president when his father was shot to death by an acquaintance. He married Harriette Ish, the daughter of a Little Rock surgeon, in 1938 and they were married until her death in 1989. The couple had three children, Lily Patricia Walker Shaw, who died in 1985, and Harriette Lucille ‘Candy’ Walker, who died in 1994, and Antonio Maceo Walker Jr who survived his father.
Rev Josiah Henson. Literary Figure. He was the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s ‘Uncle Tom’ in the work “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. He was an author, abolitionist, and minister. Born into slavery, in Port Tobacco, Charles County, Maryland, he escaped to Upper Canada (now Ontario) in 1830, and founded a settlement and laborer’s school for other fugitive slaves at Dawn, near Dresden, in Kent County, Upper Canada, of British Canada. Henson’s autobiography, The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself (1849), is believed to have inspired the title character of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852). Following the success of Stowe’s novel, Henson issued an expanded version of his memoir in 1858, Truth Stranger Than Fiction. Father Henson’s Story of His Own Life (published Boston: John P. Jewett & Company, 1858). Interest in his life continued, and nearly two decades later, his life story was updated and published as Uncle Tom’s Story of His Life: An Autobiography of the Rev. Josiah Henson (1876).