Civil Rights Champion, Unita Blackwell
Hello for Wonder Media Network, I'm Jenny Kaplan and this is encyclopedia will Manica. Today. We're talking about a key figure in the civil rights movement who risked her life to lift her voice and the voices of other black. Americans. Through violence and abuse she campaigned for equality and became the first black woman to serve as mayor and Mississippi. This is the story of UNITA. UNITA Zelma Blackwell was born he uses brown on March Eighteenth Nineteen thirty three in Lula Mississippi. Her father was a sharecropper and you need a picked cotton in the field alongside her mother until her mother sent her to live with relatives in Arkansas to receive a better education. At that time in Mississippi, black children could only attend school for two years before they were forced to return to the fields. Though you need us mother couldn't read or write. She was determined to give her daughter a better life. You need a chose her own full name after her teacher told her. She couldn't just go by the initials UC. She decided to go with UNITA Zelma. At the age of twelve, you need a left school she returned to picking cotton until she was thirty one years old she married three times but kept the last name of her first husband Jeremiah Blackwell. It was with him. She had her only child Jeremiah Junior. The turning point of UNITA's life came in nineteen, sixty four during the freedom summer. The student nonviolent. Coordinating Committee or Snick was campaigning to raise awareness about registering black citizens to vote you need a signed up to help right away during her attempts to help register black voters across our community. She was arrested more than seventy times. She was also targeted by the K. K. K. members burned crosses in her yard. You need was one of only eight black people in her county who tried to register to vote armed white men threatened you need other brave people trying to vote outside the courthouse and nearly prevented them from entering when they were finally allowed to enter the building they were forced to undergo an unfair literacy tests which all of them failed. You need to realize that despite the fact voting was illegal right society still stacked all the odds against the black community. She was more determined than ever to make her voice heard. So she began to participate in one movement after another to fight the unjust system. In nineteen sixty five UNITA sued her county's board of Education for suspending three hundred students including her own son for wearing freedom pens. She also suit to desegregate the school district. These cases traveled all the way up to federal courts though the pins remained banned, the district was ordered to desegregate. In one, thousand, nine, hundred, seventy, six UNITA was elected mayor of mayors spell. which reportedly made her the first black woman to serve as a mayor in Mississippi. When she took office, the five hundred person town had unpaved streets and no sewer system many residents lived in small tin roof shacks with no running water. UNITA immediately set to work on improving conditions serving the town for two decades from a one room. City Hall. She led the way for the town to pave a name. It's roads, install streetlights, built sewers, improve its housing, and even get its first fire truck. In nineteen eighty three UNITA earned a master's degree in regional planning from New Mass Amherst having never previously attended college in one, thousand, nine, hundred, ninety, two, she brought national attention to mayors, Ville, and all rural communities when she won three, hundred, fifty, thousand dollar Macarthur Genius Grant. Throughout her career you traveled internationally she gave speeches advised presidents like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton a never stopped fighting for civil rights. She was defeated for re election to her position in two thousand one by then she'd long made positive mark on the rural communities of Mississippi and beyond. You need. Blackwell passed away on May, Thirteenth Twenty nineteen she made an enormous difference in Marysville Mississippi enter influence extends far beyond her hometown. She fought for the rights of all Americans and brought attention too often forgotten areas of the country.