Voices of our Community

May232016 1

The Invisible Giant in the Rights Struggle

by LaTosha Brown, civil rights activist and singer

My mother, Rosetta Gamble-Brown, was born in Orville, Alabama on July 17, 1947. She was the eleventh child to Nellie and Joseph Gamble. Her family were black farmers from Alabama's Blackbelt. When Rosetta was just 3 years old, they moved to Mobile for greater work opportunities.
 
Her parents were respected, working class people in Mobile in an area we call "down the bay". In high school, my mom was an honors student and very active in band and several clubs at the all-black Williamson High School. Mr. John Leflore was the local postman but also the president of the NAACP and a renowned civil rights leader. In 1963, he met with my grandparents to discuss integrating the local all-white high school by allowing my mother to test to be selected as a Murphy High School student.
 
(AP Photo/Fred Noel
Murphy High School was the largest in Alabama so the NAACP, both the local and national members, thought that it was strategically necessary to integrate this school. They had tried in 1963 with two black students (one being my mama's friend named Henry Hobdy) however in 1964 it was reverted back to an all-white school.
 
My mother, Birdie Mae Davis and her younger sister were tested, screened and prepared to attend the high school. The NAACP provided legal counsel and the federal government provided protection for them once enrolled. The student body was made up of 3000 whites in a very hostile environment. There were several protest marches to prevent my mother and The Davis girls from attending. 
 
Rosetta began her Senior year at Murphy High School escorted by federal agents. My mom was one of only 3 black students. On one particular occasion at the high school, my mother was assaulted by a white student for entering the cafeteria. He put a gun, or as she says "something cold", to the side of her head. Immediately, the federal agents escorting my other and Birdie Mae apprehended the student. The man was later expelled and later found to be a part of a white supremacist group. However, years later he blew up a synagogue in Mississippi that killed several people and later given life in prison. 
 
At the age of 15-16 my mother was a part of what was known as the historic federal civil rights case called the Birdie Mae Davis case. She was a plaintiff in the Birdie Mae Davis case which was a famous case to protect the rights of herself and her classmate to attend Murphy high school. Overcoming all obstacles, Rosetta Gamble-Brown and Birdie Mae Davis graduated from Murphy High School and the school was officially integrated in 1965. 
 
After high school, she went to Kent State and later attended Tuskegee Institute. Years later in her adult life she moved back to Mobile where she lived until her illness. 
 
In 1975, she was in a car accident where she was pronounced dead at the scene and lost her right eye and collar bone. However, she was revived after 7 minutes. She was always a very blessed and lucky woman.
 
She went back to college at the age of 38 and became the Homecoming Queen. She was always very proud of that!
 
In 1998, she was honored by the National Voting Rights Museum with a Freedom Flame award along with Johnnie Cochran and others. This was a highlight of her life! 
 
On May 16th, 2016, she succumbed to breast cancer but she fought a long and hard fight up until the very end. She was a lifelong resident of Mobile. She had two children that included myself and my brother who preceded her in death. 

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  • Dr. Willie James Blue's gravatar Dr. Willie James Blue says:

    Proud of your mother work in the Civil Right movement. I sorry for your loss. I just loss my elder son. The pain is still fresh.

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