Skip to Main Content

Sisters in the Struggle: Kentucky Women in the Civil Rights Era, 1920s-1970s: What Are Their Names?

Fall 2019.

Kentucky Women in the Civil Rights Movement, 1920s-1970s





These names come from the University of Kentucky Libraries Notable Kentucky African Americans Database.


Abbington, Vallateen Virginia Dudley (1907-2003) - Assisted by the NAACP, she successfully fought for equal pay for African American teachers in Louisville, KY - 1940.

Berry, Ella (1884-1939) - Born in Stanford, KY, and grew up in Louisville, KY. Political and social activist, and suffragist in Chicago. Traveled to Louisville where she networked Chicago and Louisville politics -1920s.

Booker-Bryant, Ruth (1923-2013) - Participated in civil rights demonstrations in Louisville, KY, and fought for fair housing and improved living conditions.

Braden, Anne McCarty (1924-2006) - Civil rights activist and labor activist in Louisville, KY. Supported the Southern Conference Educational Fund and the Southern Patriot in New Orleans and Louisville, KY.  

Britton, Mary E. (1855-1925) - Activist against segregation laws in Kentucky.

Brooks, Corinne Mudd (1914-2008) - Unsuccessfully ran for the Indiana House of Representatives in 1954 and 1956; one of the organizer of the Indiana voter registration drive during the 1960 presidential campaign.

Burroughs, Nannie H. (1879-1961) - Founded the National Baptist Women's Convention and the National Association of Wager Earners, and fought for improved industrial conditions for African American women.

Clarke, Anna Mac (1919-1944) - Led the protest to desegregate the Douglas Army Airfield theater.

Coggs, Pauline Redmond (1912-2005) - First woman to head the Washington, D.C. Urban League; leader on the Wisconsin Civil Rights Commission.

Coleman, Gertrude W. (1934-2007) - President of Black Women of Political Action; fought for fair treatment of African American students during busing in Louisville, KY.

Comer, Martha P. (1907-2003) [not from NKAA Database] - Was editor of the Maysville Ledger-Independent newspaper; advocate and outspoken supporter of civil rights, housing, and other causes. 

Craft, Rebecca (1887-1945) - Led the fight against segregation and discrimination of police and school teachers in San Diego, CA.

Dawson, Osceola A. (1906-1963) - Long-standing active member of the NAACP; gave speeches in northern states on civil rights. 

Dunnigan, Alice (1906-1983) - Journalist who used her position as a White House Correspondent to push issues concerning African Americans; served on President Johnson's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity.

Edwards, Sallie N. (b. 1910) - Participated in the 1941 March on Washington and was a member of the American Council on Civil Rights.

Fouse, Elizabeth R. (1875-1952) - Leader for women's rights and civil rights; president of Kentucky Federation of Colored Women.

Francis, Lelia I. (1903-1999) - Marched and was arrested in Dayton, OH, while demonstrating for the hiring of more African Americans in the downtown Dayton stores.

Frye, Helen F. (1919-2014) - Civil rights activist from Danville, KY; participated in many protest efforts in the surrounding area; organized the first integrated production at Centre College in 1951: Porgy and Bess; and was the first African American woman to earn a library science degree from the University of Kentucky.  

Gibbons, Harriet (1922-1992) - Educator; director of the Office of Equal Opportunity in Albany, NY; also director of the Affirmative Action Office of the New York Department of Health.

Grevious, Audrey (1930-2017) - Became an activist with the NAACP in the 1940s; became president of the Lexington Chapter of the NAACP. 

Griffin, Edna (1909-2000) - In 1948 led sit-ins and picketed the Katz Drug Store in Des Moines, Iowa, after being refused service because she was African American; founded the Iowa Congress for Racial Equality.

Holland, Beatrice "Tommie" (1911-2003) - Led the Indiana Civil Rights Commission; first African American teacher in Richmond, IN.

Jackson, Isabelle (1848-1942) - Abolitionist; active member of the Colored women's movement; first African American teacher at Camp Nelson, KY.

Jacobson, Harriet P. (1879-1928) - Founder and 1st president of the Oklahoma Federation of Negro Women's Clubs.

 Johnson, Mary Lee - Civil rights activist in Minnesota; her family was among the group of African Americans who left Kentucky for Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

Jones, Alberta O. (1930-1965) - Participated in the March on Washington and protest marches in Louisville, Ky; held classes to teach African Americans how to vote; member of the Louisville Urban League and NAACP. 

Lewis, Julia Etta (1932-1998) - A leader of the Civil Rights Movement in Lexington, KY; member of the Lexington Congress for Racial Equality; led sit-ins against discrimination in access to education and public facilities.

Marlatt, Abby (1916-2010) - Leader in the University of Kentucky student YMCA; instructed students in non-violent civil disobedience; member of the Congress for Racial Equality; participated in sit-ins in downtown Lexington.

Miller, Anna Mae (1875-1963) - Civil rights activist in Madison, Wisconsin; member of the Madison NAACP; affiliated with the Niagara Movement; spoke before the Wisconsin Legislature on issues related to children and women.

Porterfield, Rosella (1919-2004) - Referred to as the Rosa Parks of Northern Kentucky; helped push for the integration of the Elsmere, KY, schools.

Reynolds, Louise E. (1916-1995) - Member of the national GOP task force on Human Rights and Responsibilities; sponsored an Equal Employment Opportunity Bill while member of the Louisville Board of Alderman.

Shrader, Mildred - One of the early white members of the NAACP in Kentucky; active in the Peace Movement and the Women's Movement; she and her family participated in the civil rights marches and protests.

Wade, Alice (1939-2008) - Behind-the-scenes activist within the civil rights movement in Louisville, KY; also led protest marches against racism and police brutality.

Walls, Murray B. Atkins (1900-1993) - Added Black History program to the curriculum at the Indianapolis school where she was teaching; campaigned for the integration of the libraries in Louisville, KY in the late 1940s. 

Walters, Lelia Coleman (1866-1949) - Broke may racial barriers, including becoming the first African American woman school principal in Louisville, KY; president of the African Redemption Society; associated with Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey.

Seals, Sally J. (b. 1868 or 1871) - First African American woman to be admitted to the Kentucky Bar; supported African American men's voting rights in Kentucky.

Williams, Frances H. (1899-1992) - Activist with the YWCA and the NAACP; served on President Truman's Committee on Civil Rights.

Young, Aurelia J. Norris (1915-2010) - Musician; educator; wife of Jack Harvey Young, Sr., distinguished Mississippi civil rights lawyer; supporter of her husband's efforts.

Young, Hortense Houston (1903-1977) - Civil rights activist in Louisville, KY; ran unsuccessfully for the Louisville Board of Education; successfully proposed amending the 1908 Day Law that enforced school segregation in Kentucky.