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Eugenia Fortes

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Information about Eugenia Fortes

Profile image of Eugenia Fortes

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
Occupation(s):
Civil Rights Activist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Soup (Kale)
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Anywhere
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
11/14/1911
Birth Location:
Cova Joana,

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
Occupation(s):
Civil Rights Activist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Soup (Kale)
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Anywhere
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
11/14/1911
Birth Location:
Cova Joana
See how Eugenia Fortes is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Civil rights activist Eugenia Fortes was born in Brava, in the Cape Verde Islands, on November 14, 1911. Her father, Antonio, traveled to America, and Fortes had to wait until she was nine years old before being able to join her father. After a journey of thirty-one days, Fortes arrived in Whaling City, New Bedford, Massachusetts.

In 1928, Fortes found work at the artificial pearl company in Hyannis, and two years later, became a housekeeper for a family in Hyannisport. She remained in that position for the next twenty-seven years, and in 1957, she became a cook at a local school until her retirement in 1968. An outspoken activist for the poor and racial equality, in 1945, Fortes and a friend visited East Beach in Hyannisport, which was then segregated. Asked by the police to leave, Fortes refused. The following year, a group attempted to buy the beach and privatize it, but Fortes stepped forward in a town council meeting and lambasted the idea, telling of the discrimination she faced.

Fortes founded the Cape Cod chapter of the NAACP in 1961, but by then, she was already well steeped in the Civil Rights Movement. One of the tenants who rented her cottage from her was future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and in 1955, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., spent Thanksgiving and Christmas on the island. In 1961, when the Freedom Riders came through Hyannis, Ted Kennedy came to get a report from her to be delivered to the White House. As a fighter for the poor, Fortes sent food and clothing to impoverished counties in the Deep South for twenty-five years.

Fortes was a member of the Hyannis library board of directors for forty years, and was on the United States Civil Rights Commission for fourteen years. She also received numerous awards for her civil rights work. In 2004, the beach Fortes refused to leave in 1945, East Beach, was renamed Fortes Beach.

Fortes passed away on Friday, May 19, 2006 at the age of 94.

See how Eugenia Fortes is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Eugenia Fortes' interview, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of Eugenia Fortes' interview, pt. 2
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Eugenia Fortes lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Eugenia Fortes describes her maternal family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Eugenia Fortes talks briefly about the history of the Moors in Cape Verde
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Eugenia Fortes talks about her mother's immigration to the United States
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Eugenia Fortes describes her paternal family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Eugenia Fortes talks about her father's relationship with Marcelino Manuel de Graca, or "Daddy Grace"
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Eugenia Fortes talks briefly about her parents' marriage
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Eugenia Fortes describes her childhood communities in Brava, Cape Verde and New Bedford, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Eugenia Fortes talks about attending elementary school in Brava, Cape Verde
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Eugenia Fortes describes race relations in Cape Verde in the 1910s
  • Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Eugenia Fortes describes learning to speak English in New Bedford, Massachusetts, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Eugenia Fortes remembers immigrating from Brava, Cape Verde to New Bedford, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Eugenia Fortes describes learning to speak English in New Bedford, Massachusetts, pt. 2
  • Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Eugenia Fortes describes leaving the Catholic church for the Baptist church
  • Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Eugenia Fortes describes her siblings
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Eugenia Fortes describes working as a cook and caterer for wealthy families in New Bedford, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Eugenia Fortes describes joining the Boston National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1936
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Eugenia Fortes talks about people of Cape Verdean descent in Cape Cod, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Eugenia Fortes talks briefly about HistoryMaker George N. Leighton
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Eugenia Fortes describes forming the Cape Cod, Massachusetts branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1961
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Eugenia Fortes describes the issues addressed by the Cape Cod branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Eugenia Fortes talks about racial discrimination in the northern United States
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Eugenia Fortes talks about her relationships with HistoryMaker Edward Brooke and the Kennedy family
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Eugenia Fortes talks briefly about the wealthy residents of Cape Cod, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Eugenia Fortes talks briefly about working as a baker in a Cape Cod, Massachusetts school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Eugenia Fortes describes refusing to vacate a segregated beach in Hyannis, Massachusetts in 1946
  • Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Eugenia Fortes talks about her reputation for honesty
  • Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Eugenia Fortes remembers an effort to embarrass the John Fitzgerald Kennedy presidential administration, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Eugenia Fortes remembers an effort to embarrass the John Fitzgerald Kennedy presidential administration, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Eugenia Fortes remembers Thurgood Marshall's visit to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Eugenia Fortes remembers Thurgood Marshall's visit to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Eugenia Fortes remembers the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s visit to Cape Cod, Massachusetts as a Ph.D. student at Boston University
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Eugenia Fortes describes boycotting Sambo's Restaurant in Hyannis, Massachusetts in 1965
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Eugenia Fortes describes housing issues and advocating for the establishment of public housing in Cape Cod, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Eugenia Fortes describes the Community Action Committee of Cape Cod and Islands, Inc. and her presidency of the Barnstable Council on Aging
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Eugenia Fortes talks about her contributions to the Mississippi Box Project
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Eugenia Fortes describes her political affiliation
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Eugenia Fortes talks about the changing landscape in the American South
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Eugenia Fortes remembers civil rights activist Margaret Moseley and a young woman she helped
  • Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Eugenia Fortes describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Eugenia Fortes considers what in her life she may have done differently
  • Tape: 3 Story: 14 - Eugenia Fortes remembers her mother's attendance at an award recognition ceremony in her honor
  • Tape: 3 Story: 15 - Eugenia Fortes reflects upon her legacy
  • Tape: 3 Story: 16 - Eugenia Fortes describes how she would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Eugenia Fortes narrates her photographs