Women of the Movement to Be Honored at Power to Inspire 2023
Women played a huge role in planning and executing the March on Washington but were nearly unrecognized during the event. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the March, and The Center is hosting a one-night-only performance entitled “Let Us March On…” that will transport audience members back to August 28, 1963, and recognize contributions of the women behind the March.
Our honoree this year is Mrs. Myrlie Evers-Williams. Get to know her and the other women of the movement!
Myrlie Evers-Williams and her husband, activist Medgar Evers, opened the first NAACP field office in Mississippi. The high-profile activists promoted voting rights, equal justice, and economic equality. Their impact on the community made them targets for racial violence, and Medgar Evers was shot and killed by white supremacists in June 1963.
After her husband’s murder, Mrs. Evers-Williams continued the fight for equality and justice. Between 1995 and 1998, Mrs. Evers-Williams served as chair of the National Board of Directors of the NAACP and later established the Medgar Evers Institute in Jackson, Mississippi.
Mrs. Evers-Williams’ work has earned her many tributes, including several honorary doctorates. She was named “Woman of the Year” in 1998 by Ms. Magazine and one of the “100 Most Fascinating Black Women of the 20th Century” by Ebony magazine. In 2013, Mrs. Evers-Williams delivered the invocation at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, becoming the first woman and first non-clergy member to perform the prayer.
Frankye Adams-Johnson is an educator, poet, speaker, and author. Growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, she was a prodigious youth organizer who helped organize numerous civil rights events, sit-ins, and marches, including a walk-out of her high school. She joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and worked closely with Medgar Evers as well as the NAACP and the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO). She moved to New York state in 1967, where she co-organized a branch of the Black Panther Party in White Plains. She later became a college professor and returned to Jackson where she teaches English at Jackson State University and eventually served as Chair for the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement.
Xernona Clayton Brady
Xernona Clayton Brady is an American civil rights leader and broadcasting executive. She worked for the National Urban League and Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the civil rights movement. Later, Clayton went into television, where she became the first African American from the southern United States to host a daily primetime talk show. She became corporate vice president of urban affairs for Turner Broadcasting, created the Trumpet Foundation, was instrumental in the development of the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame, convinced a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan to denounce the Klan, and has been honored by the NAACP and the city of Atlanta for her work.
Rutha Mae Harris
Rutha Mae Harris channeled her civil rights activism through music saying, “without the songs of the movement, personally I believe that there wouldn’t have been a movement.” She, along with Bernice Johnson Reagon, Cordell Reagon, and Charles Nesbett, formed the SNCC Freedom Singers in Albany, Georgia. They sang in coffeehouses, colleges, theaters, and demonstrations across the U.S to raise money for the movement and share the stories of what was happening in the field. Harris later joined Reagon as part of Sweet Honey in the Rock. Still living in Albany, Harris taught at Monroe High School for 30 years and continues to bring joy and inspiration through song.
Joan Trumpauer Mulholland
Joan Trumpauer Mulholland is an American civil rights activist who was active in the 1960s. Due to her participation in a 1961 Freedom Ride she was arrested and endured two months in Mississippi State Penitentiary’s maximum-security unit. The following year she enrolled at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi, as its first white student, representing her belief that integration must be a two–way street. She served as the local secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Later, she established the Joan Trumpauer Mulholland Foundation, dedicated to educating youth about the civil rights movement and how to become activists in their communities.
Karen Spellman is a special events producer who formed her company in 1984, specializing in large-scale cultural and social justice programs. Her work in the civil rights movement began as a high school student in the Greensboro, North Carolina, NAACP youth chapter, where she participated in sit-ins for public accommodations. In 1963 she worked with SNCC and the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG). In 1966 she became SNCC’s national research director in Atlanta, Georgia. She contributed to SNCC’s newsletter, created “The Panther’s Claw” newsletter for the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, and produced the Afro American News Service that provided feature articles documenting the work of SNCC to the national Black press.
Maria Varela is a Mexican American civil rights photographer, community organizer, writer, and teacher. She was active in many civil rights movements, advocating for indigenous communities and protecting cultural heritage within African American, Native American, and Mexican American communities. She brought a powerful photographic eye to SNCC from 1963 to 1967. Later settling in New Mexico, Varela created and supported several nonprofit organizations to help minority groups and started agricultural cooperatives and community health clinics. She co-founded Ganados del Valle in 1981, a nonprofit economic development corporation dedicated to helping Hispanic and Native American communities preserve their pastoral cultures, lands, and water rights.
Learn more about this years Power to Inspire and purchase tickets for the inspiring “Let Us March On…” performance today.