Political leader and city council member Joanne Collins was born on August 29, 1935 in Kansas City, Missouri to William and Mary Frances Mitchell. She attended Attucks Elementary School, Northeast Junior High School, and Sumner High School. Collins attended the University of Kansas from 1953 to 1955, and went on to receive her B.A. degree in political science from Stephens College and her M.A. degree in business administration from Baker University.
After attending the University of Kansas, Collins worked as a postal clerk in Kansas City, Missouri, as a real estate agent for Robert Hughes and Company, and in community outreach at a local bank. During this time, she was an active member in the League of Women Voters and the Missouri and Jackson County Republican committees, and was appointed vice-chair of the Missouri advisory committee for the United States Commission on Civil Rights. In 1974, she was the first African American woman elected to serve on the Kansas City Council. Collins was re-elected to the position in the 1975, 1979, 1983, and 1987 general elections before retiring in 1991. During her tenure as councilwoman, she served as chair of the youth development committee, the community action committee, and the finance and audit committee, and as mayor pro-tem and acting mayor. Collins also worked part-time at United Missouri Bank while on city council.
Collins has volunteered with over fifty organizations. She served on the MOKAN Advisory Board and the Emily Taylor Women's Resource Center Advisory Board/KU. She was a member of Salvation Army, Church Women United/KCMO, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc and a lifelong member of the St. Paul A.M.E. Zion Church/KCKS. She was also a member of the Black Women’s Political Congress, the National Women’s Political Caucus, the Midwest Christian Counseling Center, and the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City.
Collins received the Harriet Tubman Award from A.M.E. Zion in 1976, the Living Legend Award from the Heartland Women’s Leadership Council in 2010, and the James C. Denneny Spirit Award from the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City in 2013.
Collins has two children, six grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, two step-children, and six step-grandchildren.
Joanne Collins was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 7, 2019.