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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Bertha Burres Luster

2007 Mississippi Quitman County

Ms. Luster acted as lead organizer and “numerator” for the Mule Train.

Thelma Palmer Barnes

2007 Mississippi Washington County

Ms. Barnes served with the Mississippi Delta Ministry, organized a Christian Fellowship Center and provided programs for underserved youth and families.

Dr. L.C. Dorsey

2007 Mississippi Bolivar County

Dr. Dorsey was a former sharecropper who fought alongside Fannie Lou Hamer. She was also a Head Start teacher, director of Tuft’s Delta Health Center, charter member of MS chapter of National Association of Black Social Workers, and an active Women’s Rights Worker.

Sister Thea Bowman

2007 Mississippi Madison County

Dr. Bowman was a Civil Rights leader and the first Black woman to receive a doctorate in Theology from Boston College. She was also an educator and member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Lillie Ayers

2007 Mississippi Washington County

Her involvement with the Ayers Educational Funding Case brought millions of dollars in new funding to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in Mississippi. She also helped bring the Head Start Program to the state.

Leola D. Williams

2007 Georgia Baker County

As a mother to 10 children, she gave up welfare and worked the farm to have the independence to go to jail, integrate schools, attend government meetings and travel by bus to the March on Washington to protest segregation, poverty and deprivation.

Leila Walker

2007 Georgia Worth County

Her role as political activist encouraged many blacks to exercise their right to vote and had a lasting impact on the community encouraging others to persevere.

Dr. Lillian Patricia Johnson

2007 Georgia Dougherty County

As the first Black woman to serve as the Director of the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services, she was the ranking female in State Government with responsibility for 5,000 employees and a $100 million budget.

Mary Jo Haywood

2007 Georgia Mitchell County

Her legacy of activism lead to the election of Blacks on all county boards and commissions and two consecutive Black mayors. Her action against the City of Camilla opened the door for many Blacks to head city departments. Also lead the effort to bring the first regulated countywide Daycare Facility for Blacks, a center which is still operational.

Carol R. King

2007 Georgia Dougherty County

The founder and director of one of the Nation’s first and oldest Head Start Programs dedicated her life not only to educating children, but to educating and employing parents.

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.