The 25 Matriarchs of the Civil Rights Movement

 The 25 Matriarchs of the Civil Rights Movement

 A D King Foundation honors 25 matriarchs 

1) MsBillye Aaron – The widow of Rev. Samuel W. Williams and the wife of baseball legend Hank Aaron, Ms. Aaron was a very active participant in the struggle for Civil Rights. She worked diligently with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

2) Ms. Juanita Abernathy – Ms. Abernathy stood strong through the bombing of her home with her husband Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy who was one of Dr. MLK’s closest confidants. She was instrumental in helping to organize the Freedom Riders. She continues dedicating her life’s efforts to the struggle through civic and religious organizations.

3) Ms. Alethea Williams Boone – Married to the Civil Rights activist Rev. Joseph Boone, Ms. Boone was involved in the struggle for Civil Rights right along with him. She set up the Joseph E. Boone Memorial Foundation to honor his legacy and to support human causes. 

 4) Ms. Xernona Clayton - A civil rights leader who worked for the National Urban League and Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the Civil Rights Movement, Ms. Clayton later had a career in broadcast. She also founded the Trumpet awards and Civil Rights Walk of Fame to honor the achievements of African Americans and civil rights advocates. 

5) MsDorothy Cotton – Ms. Cotton was a leader of the Civil Rights Movement and a member of the inner-circle of one of its main organizations, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference where she served as Educational Director. She was arguably the highest ranking female member of the organization.

6) Ms. Charlayne Hunter-Gault - The first African-American woman to enroll at the University of Georgia, and the one of the first of two African-American students to integrate the school in 1961, Hunter-Gault was also a Civil Rights activist who became the first African American to give the University of Georgia's commencement address. She has written several books about her experience with integration and civil rights.

7) Ms. Grace Towns Hamilton – The first African-American woman elected to the Georgia General Assembly, she was also as advisor to the U.S. Civil Rights  Commission. During the Civil Rights Era, she worked tirelessly to expand political representation for blacks in city, county and state governments.   

8) MsRosemarie Freeney Harding – A Civil Rights activist along with her husband Dr. Vincent Harding, the couple moved to Atlanta to participate in the Southern Freedom Movement as representatives of the Mennonite Church. They co-founded Mennonite House, an interracial service center and Civil Rights Movement gathering place in Atlanta where they counseled participants of the movement.

 9) Ms. Azira Hill – Often referred to as Atlanta’s Angel for her works as a civil rights activist and nurse, Ms. Hill was involved in many organizations related to civil rights. She is the recipient of many awards and honors for her services.                                               

10) Ms. Louise Hollowell- Active in the Civil Rights movement and the struggle for justice and freedom for humanity, she supported and traveled with her husband Donald Hollowell, known as Georgia's foremost Civil Rights attorney during the 1950's and 1960's. She authored The Sacred Call: A Tribute to Donald L. Hollowell, Civil Rights Champion that chronicles many of the cases in which he was involved, including the release of Dr. Martin Luther King from jail.

11) Dr. Christine King Farris - The eldest and only living sibling of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ms. King stood in solidarity with the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. The author of several books and a public speaker, she taught at Spelman College and was active in many civic and human rights organizations.

12) Ms. Coretta King – The wife of the late great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ms. King was a foundation for him during the movement and later created The King Center to memorialize her husband and his legacy of equal rights and justice for all.  

13) Ms. Naomi Ruth King – The wife of the late Rev. A.D. King, the youngest brother of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ms. King stood firm in the Civil Rights movement even after her home and husband’s church were bombed. Ms. Naomi King and Dr. Babs Onabanjo established A. D. King Foundation, Inc.                                    

14) Ms. Lillian Lewis – The belated wife of Congressman John Lewis, she stayed mostly out of the public eye, but supported and advised her husband in issues related to Civil Rights for more than four decades. She was also his closest advisor in his political career and his historic election to Congress.

15) Ms. Evelyn Lowery- A civil rights activist and leader and the belated wife of Rev. Joseph Lowery, who marched in the historic Selma to Montgomery March in 1965. She is the founder of SCLC/Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now, Inc. (W.O.M.E.N.), the sister organization of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference  

16) Ms. Eliza PaschallA white activist who served on Atlanta Council on Human Relations, Ms. Paschall was also executive director of the Community Relations Commission where she investigated racial discrimination and mediated human relations conflict. She authored It Must Have Rained (1974), a book about Civil Rights in Atlanta. 

17) Ms. Cleophas Orange - An activist during the Civil Rights Movement, Ms. Orange was at the forefront with her husband Rev. James Orange who was well known as a Civil Rights icon. She was instrumental in forming the James Orange Foundation to continue for social progress and continuously work in human.           

18) Dr. Roslyn Pope – A Civil Rights activist while a student at Spelman College, Pope wrote An Appeal for Human Rights that was signed by other student leaders of the institutions of the Atlanta University Center. The committee of An Appeal for Human Rights evolved into the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

19) Ms. Terrie Randolph – Serving as secretary to the President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Ms. Randolph was one of several white women who were active in the quest for Civil Rights for all.  

20) Ms. Ruby Doris Smith Robinson - A Freedom Rider, she was beaten in Montgomery, Ala., and arrested in Jackson, Miss., serving 45 days in prison under the "jail, no bail" policy she herself had instituted. She was the first woman elected executive secretary of SNCC. In her short 25 years on this planet, Robinson had a big impact on the civil rights movement.

21) Dr. Georgianne Thomas- Active in the Civil Rights Movement when she was a student at Spelman College, Dr. Thomas is the creator and producer of the compelling documentary Foot Soldiers: Class of 1964. The documentary is about Spelman students including Dr. Thomas who helped to bring about change in Atlanta regarding Civil Rights.

22) Ms. Octavia Vivian - One of the first African-American Deputy Voter Registrars in DeKalb County Georgia, Ms. Vivian worked alongside her noted husband C.T. Vivian for Civil Rights. Years later she took the lead in collecting and organizing documents that detailed the history of S.C.L.C. and the American Civil Rights Movement.

23) Ms. Juanita Terry Williams - A former Georgia legislator who was one of the first black women to run for public office in the state, she was the wife of civil rights leader Hosea Williams and worked with him in the Civil Rights Movement.

24) Dr. Mary Ann Smith Wilson – A civil rights activist, Dr. Wilson was arrested at the age of 18 in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her seat on the bus system. She is one of several women who were arrested for this offense prior to Rosa Parks that year. She was among the four women who took their case to the United States Supreme Court.

25) Ms. Jean Childs Young - An educator and activist who was the wife of former US Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, until her death in 1994, Ms. Young developed curriculum for the Citizenship Schools of Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She participated in voter registrations and marches including the 1963 March on Washington, 1965 Selma to Montgomery March and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign. She developed the "Celebrate Difference" Program at the King Center to educate young people on the Civil Rights Movement and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as the U.S. Chairperson of the UN International Year of the Child-- bringing the rights of children into the global movement for civil and human rights.


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Comment by Kitty J. Pope on November 10, 2015 at 11:17am

Thanks to the AD King Foundation for honoring these 25 great women of the Civil Rights Movement. Recognizing these women during a ceremony at the Awards Gala is most commendable to such deserving women.

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