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Ann Walker

Civil rights activist Ann Walker was born in Freehold, New Jersey, on February 27th, 1928. Her mother, Mabel B. Edwards, was a seamstress, and her father, Robert Willard Edwards, worked in the trust department at Howard Savings. She attended Jefferson Junior High and Court Street School before Freehold High School in Freehold, New Jersey. For two years after her high school graduation in 1946, Walker attended Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia. In 1950, she married Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, who would later serve as Chief of Staff for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and as executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) from 1960 to 1964. In 1951, Walker graduated from Howard University with her B.S. degree in accounting and economics, and one year later, her first child, Ann Patrice, was born. In the next five years, Walker would have three more children.

During the 1960s, Walker and her husband were very active in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1961, they participated in the Freedom Rides, for which Walker would spend a week in jail in Jackson County, Mississippi. Two years later, in 1963, during Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaign to desegregate Birmingham, Walker was beaten on Mother’s day at the Gaston Motel by the National Guard.

In the 1970s, the Walkers lived in New York, where for thirty-seven years her husband, Dr. Walker, was Senior Pastor at Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem. During this time, Walker volunteered with the Westchester Foster Grandparents, serving one-on-one as a tutor and mentor to young people. She also served as board president for two terms at the Yonkers YWCA and as Mayor’s Liaison to the Black Community in Yonkers. In 1975, after raising her children, Walker entered the workforce at North American Philips as the Branch Director of their credit union. She retired in 1989, and in 2004, when her husband also retired, the Walkers moved to Chester, Virginia.

Ann Walker was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 22, 2010.

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Interview Date


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Maker Category
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Middle Name



Jefferson Junior High School

Court Street School

Freehold High School

Virginia Union University

Howard University

First Name


Birth City, State, Country




Favorite Season



New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Near Water

Favorite Quote

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date


Birth Place Term
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Favorite Food


Short Description

Civil rights activist Ann Walker (1928 - ) participated in the Freedom Rides and the campaign to desegregate Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. Her husband, Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, served as Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s chief of staff.


North American Philips Company

Favorite Color


Timing Pairs

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ann Walker's interview</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ann Walker lists her favorites</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ann Walker describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ann Walker describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ann Walker talks about her mother's organizational involvement</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ann Walker describes her parents' personalities and her likeness to her father</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ann Walker describes her earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ann Walker describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ann Walker describes her early experiences of racial discrimination</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ann Walker remembers the Great Depression</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ann Walker describes her parents' relationship</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Ann Walker remembers her childhood activities</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Ann Walker talks about her early education</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ann Walker recalls the racial discrimination at Freehold High School in Freehold, New Jersey</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ann Walker describes her social life at Freehold High School in Freehold, New Jersey</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ann Walker recalls her early experiences of travel</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ann Walker recalls her attempt to organize a walkout protest</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ann Walker recalls her graduation from Freehold High School in Freehold, New Jersey</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ann Walker describes her experiences at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ann Walker recalls meeting her husband, Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ann Walker remembers the notable figures at Howard University</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ann Walker talks about the births of her children</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ann Walker describes her experiences of discrimination in Petersburg, Virginia</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ann Walker describes her early exposure to The Links</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ann Walker recalls the reprisals against her husband, Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ann Walker describes the members of the SCLC</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ann Walker remembers her role in the Mississippi Freedom Summer</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ann Walker recalls being jailed for her activism in Jackson, Mississippi, pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ann Walker recalls being jailed for her activism in Jackson, Mississippi, pt. 2</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ann Walker recalls being beaten by police in the aftermath of Project C</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ann Walker remembers being jailed in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ann Walker remembers the March on Washington</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ann Walker recalls leaving the South</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ann Walker describes her experiences of discrimination in Yonkers, New York</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ann Walker talks about her experiences as a pastor's wife</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ann Walker talks about her son's incarceration</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ann Walker recalls working for the North American Philips Company</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ann Walker describes the notable members of the SCLC</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ann Walker recalls the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Ann Walker remembers her husband's association with Nelson Rockefeller</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Ann Walker remembers the Harlem community in New York City</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Ann Walker describes her involvement with The Links</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Ann Walker describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ann Walker reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ann Walker describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ann Walker narrates her photographs, pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ann Walker narrates her photographs, pt. 2</a>







Ann Walker recalls her attempt to organize a walkout protest
Ann Walker recalls being jailed for her activism in Jackson, Mississippi, pt. 1
Do you recall any, any civil rights activity at all in, in--when you were growing up (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) The only thing I re--$$--any organized, you know, activity or the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] being involved?$$There was a Mr. Fenderson [ph.], he was always trying to get people to join the NAACP, course I was a kid. But I do remember in my high school [Freehold High School, Freehold, New Jersey], one of the girls was going to be in a play and they said her brother before her had been in this play and he had gotten into a--jumped into a barrel of cotton and came out, you know, with his eyes big and whatnot. And the black kids complained. And they said that his sister was going to have to do the same thing. And we decided if she did it, we were gonna walk out. Well, I sat with the orchestra down at the front, I was playing violin then. And when she, she didn't jump in the barrel of flour, she jumped behind the barrel of flour and was making the big eyes and whatnot. And I got up and I walked out, nobody else walked out with me. But we had said we were gonna walk out. I went to my locker and got my things and went home, because assembly was the last period of the day. And the next day the principal asked me why did I leave, and I told her, I did not want to see somebody of my race making a fool of themself. She didn't reprimand me, I didn't get any punishment or anything.$$Wha- what did the other students say as their reason for not (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) They didn't say anything, no. I had just walked and that was it (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) They never--they didn't give any, any excuse for not walking out?$$No excuse or nothing, unh-uh.$$Okay. You, you didn't ask them why they--why they--$$No I didn't ask them, I was mad with them.$$Okay. So this--this is your senior year, correct?$$It was either my junior or senior year.$Were there any whites at the--angry white people at the bus stop (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) When got--when we got to Jackson, Mississippi there were policemen on both sides and if you wanted to go someplace else you couldn't. But they escorted you right into the white waiting room and arrested you. As soon as you stepped in that door, you were under arrest. And so we spent the first night in the Jackson, Mississippi city jail. The two white girls [Margaret Leonard and Miriam Feingold Real] were in the cell next to me. They gave us cold peas and cold corn for dinner. And the mice were running up and down the bars of the jail--of the cells. And I could talk to the two white girls in the next cell, see we--they were segregated.$$'Cause they were white they had their own cell.$$Yeah, right they were in--yeah. And then the next morning, I kept notes and I still have them of every day we were in jail. I think like five or six o'clock the next morning they got us up and took us to the county jail, the Hinds County jail [Hinds County Detention Center, Jackson, Mississippi]. And that's where I did a week and it was terrible. I couldn't talk about until maybe about twenty--twenty, twenty-two years ago, it was so bad.$$Well what was it like?$$There were bugs. There, I think, thirteen of us in one cell. You're sleeping on the floor and whatnot, and at night when the girls were sleeping you could see the bugs crawling over them.$$Now these are--these are all black women?$$All black women in that one cell, the white women were in another cell. And the food, they would--as I remember I think they put it through a slit and something in the bottom of the door and they gave you your food that way. The food was terrible and you had no, we had no, no toothbrushes, no washcloths or anything. And they kept telling us we would get them until finally one of the white--one of the black ministers came and brought things. He said he'd left a package, I think he said something like thirty pounds, I have it in my notes, but we never did get them. And we couldn't, the water--it seemed like when you wanted to take a--to take a glass of water, it was hot. And if you wanted to bathe, it was cold. I mean it was just--it was just terrible. And the guard was so mean. At night he would turn the air conditioner on. If it was cool, he would turn the air conditioner on. In the day, he would turn the heat on. And we would sing to the men--I could hear my--we could hear the men singing and I don't know where their jail was, it was somewhere near, but we could hear them singing and we would sing back to them. And he would tell us to stop singing and we wouldn't stop singing. And that's when he would turn the air conditioning on so that we would stop singing. But it didn't stop us. And those girls were the--they were as clean as any college roommate. And they si- had a line strung up, I don't know if it was a string or what across the cell and they would rinse out the little things, you know, at night and hang them on the line. But it was terrible. And the Salvation Army came by one day and they told us we were all going to hell. We were sinners and all going to hell (laughter). We're sitting in that, you know, riding the bus anyplace we wanted to sit.$$This is a white, white members of Salvation Army?$$White Salvation Army, yeah.$$Okay, so what kind of songs did you sing, do you remember what?$$We sang the freedom songs, "Over my head, I hear music in the air" [sic. 'Freedom in the Air'], 'We Shall Overcome,' there was something to the tune of 'Day O' ['Banana Boat Song'], 'Day O' that [HistoryMaker] Harry Belafonte sang. We, we--I had--I forget the words to that, but we sang it. Whatever, you know, anybody knew that was a freedom song. We--they were called freedom songs and we would sing them, uh-huh. And then somebody had a book, may have been more than one but I read, I forget the name of it, 'The Long Day' [ph.] or something like that. Somebody had a little radio and we could hear when they would take some of the cellmates out to go to Parchman penitentiary [Parchman Farm; Mississippi State Penitentiary, Parchman, Mississippi]. Then the next, you would hear on the radio, you know, "Some Freedom Riders left So and So and they'll be in Jackson [Mississippi] at such and such a time." So we knew somebody else was coming. And they were--they were a nice group, there was never any confusion, no friction.