Unita Blackwell’s Legacy of Educational Activism Lives On

Crystal Sanders SAVE THIS

Unita Blackwell, 1st African American female mayor in Mississippi, 1992.

May 17 marked the 65th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, which outlawed racial segregation in public schools. While the brilliant legal strategies of Black Civil Rights attorneys such as Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall receive most of the attention, the Black parents and community leaders who mobilized to advance educational opportunities for Black children should also be commemorated. One such grassroots activist, Unita Zelma Blackwell, passed away quietly on May 13. The celebrated Mississippi freedom fighter had a long history of challenging white power structures to improve Black life.

U.Z. Brown was born to Willie and Virda Mae Brown on March 18, 1933 in a sharecropper’s shack in the Mississippi Delta. The initials U.Z. did not stand for anything until many years later, when a school teacher insisted that the…

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