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. McCoy rooted her entire teaching career in the Yazoo City Public Schools where she served as Choral Director. In 1996, she received the “Teacher of the Year” award for the Yazoo City Municipal School District and became a finalist in 1997 for the statewide “Teacher of the Year” competition. In 1999 she was the recipient of the Yazoo Herald’s “Citizen of the Year Award”. In October 2002, The Yazoo Municipal School District named the new elementary school in honor of Mrs. Jevonne Keller McCoy.
Most noted for serving her community as the Tallahatchie County Election Commissioner from 1996 to 2004, Ms. Ellis was responsible for ensuring that the voter’s roll was correct. She certified elections, selected poll workers, and ensured that the election was a smooth transition. She demonstrated the importance of grass-root individuals becoming a part of the change agent process.
An industrious worker in Sharkey and Issaquena County, Hanna Obie Collins served forty-two years as a nurse midwife. She delivered hundreds of babies in the Mississippi Delta. She also mentored and provided support to many young mothers in the area. Referred to by most community residents as “Mama Hanna”, Hanna Obie Collins delivered over 15 of her own grandchildren and a number of her eldest great-grandchildren.
Public schools throughout Mississippi were desegregated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but the state enacted what it called a freedom-of-choice law and used it to intimidate African-Americans into remaining in inferior Black schools. In the fall of 1965, just after Mae Bertha and Matthew Carter enrolled 7 of their 13 children in local white schools, the owner of the plantation told the Carters to withdraw them. Eventually, eight of the Carter’s children graduated from what had been all-white schools in Sunflower County; five older children graduated from local Black schools. Eleven also graduated from college — seven from the once-segregated University of Mississippi, an unmatched achievement.
She enjoyed sixteen years of teaching in the Clarksdale City School District and twenty years as the food services coordinator for Coahoma Opportunities, Incorporated (COI) Head Start before losing her hearing in 1985. During the ten years of total deafness, Mrs. Blackburn joined the Senior Olympics and won seven medals on the state level and volunteered for ten to fifteen hours a week at COI Head Start and the Retired Senior Program (RSVP).
She was the first African-American and first woman to be elected coroner in Dougherty County. A fierce, fearless, and outspoken Community Activist, Mrs. Taylor supported any efforts to rid the community of racism and injustice. She gave generously of herself and her means to these causes.
As an organizer and developer for a system of Voter Registration, including obtaining absentee ballots as needed by citizens and personally assisting with getting voters to the polls, Vivian’s work resulted in Camilla’s first African-American female mayor. She also served as a member of the City Council of the City of Camilla, served as Vice President of Mitchell County Branch of NAACP and held several local, district, and state offices in the American Legion Auxiliary.
Mrs. Rodwell’s willingness to house the Freedom Riders, feed the Civil Rights workers and to support her children and other neighborhood youth as they protested the unjust Jim Crow Laws helped to change societal norms in Fitzgerald, Georgia. Black people who were once afraid of the establishment gained courage under her mentorship.
She is pastor and founder of Jesus Christ Tabernacle of Deliverance Church and CEO of Family Visions Outreach, Inc., a local Non-profit dedicated to working with at risk youth and providing affordable housing to Sylvester, GA and surrounding areas.
Mrs. McBurrows was the first licensed cosmetologist in Wilcox County, Rochelle GA. As a cosmetologist in this small rural town, she was able to provide a much-needed service to the women of her community. She was later employed at the Wilcox Abbeville Nursing Home for fifteen years as a Nutritionist, and Certified Dietitian and first black supervisor in her department. Mrs. McBurrows was the first Black and only woman to serve on the Wilcox County School Board from 1986 -1997.
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.