The Southern Rural Black Women’s Hall of Fame

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:

  • Faith — known for spiritual or religious leadership, guidance or example
  • Sacrifice — known for personal sacrifice or martyrdom
  • Action — known for taking progressive action
  • Cooperation — known for fostering cooperation and cooperative structures
  • Reflection — known for documentation, reflection and guidance
  • Expression — known for artistic expression
  • Education — known for creating and advancing educational opportunities
  • Cultivation — known for nurturing individuals, organizations and communities

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Laurena Sutton

2005 Alabama Perry County

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 Williams Redden

2005 Alabama Montgomery County

Idessa was a Civil Rights activist who advocated against discriminatory hiring and helped change the Jim Crow hiring practices in 1950’s Alabama.

Elizabeth Marzette Parrish

2005 Alabama Wilcox County

As a pioneer for the childcare industry in the state of Alabama, Elizabeth helped establish the first child care center in Wilcox County.

Consuela Lee

2005 Alabama Wilcox County

As an accomplished jazz musician, educator and activist, Mrs. Lee was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1992.

Thelma Onita Roberts Craig

2005 Alabama Choctaw County

Mrs. Craig was the first woman and first African-American elected to the Choctaw County Board of Education.

Mary Louise Smith Ware

2007 Alabama Montgomery County

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 Glass

2007 Alabama Montgomery County

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 Gardner

2007 Alabama Lowndes County

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.

Ora D. Hicks

2007 Alabama Wilcox County

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.

Sandra Hullett, MD

2007 Alabama Greene County

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.

Billie Jean Young

2009 Alabama Choctaw County

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.

Dr. Gwendolyn M. Patton

2009 Alabama Montgomery County

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.

Carrie Mae Johnson

2009 Alabama Choctaw County

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.

Arzula C. Johnson

2009 Alabama Wilcox 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.

Earnestine Edwards

2009 Alabama Williams, Jefferson 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 McKeller Williams

2011 Alabama Mahorn, Clarke County

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.

Zecozy Williams

2011 Alabama Montgomery County

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 Willie Seltzer

2011 Alabama Wilcox County

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 Maull McKinstry

2011 Alabama Jefferson County

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.”

Lillie Mae Bradford

2011 Alabama Montgomery County

She was arrested in May 1951 for sitting in the front of the bus in Montgomery, AL.