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Gloria Rackley Blackwell

Educator and civil rights activist, Gloria Blackwell (Rackley) was born on March 11, 1927 in Little Rock, South Carolina. Her father, Harrison Benjamin Blackwell, was a barber and her mother, Lurline Olivia Thomas Blackwell, taught at the Little Rock Colored School. Blackwell attended Mather Academy in Camden, South Carolina, graduated from high school in Sumter, South Carolina in 1943 and then enrolled in Claflin College in Orangeburg, South Carolina. There, she was a favorite of President Randolph. Blackwell volunteered for NAACP Youth and was president of the Methodist Youth Fellowship. Leaving school to get married in 1944, Blackwell lived for a time in Chicago. She earned her B.S. degree in education from Claflin College in 1953 and taught in the segregated public schools of Orangeburg. In 1956, Blackwell obtained her M.A. degree in education from South Carolina State University, also in Orangeburg.

In the 1950s, Blackwell served as a recruiter for the Dillon County chapter of the NAACP. Visited often by Thurgood Marshall and Roy Wilkins, the Dillon County NAACP chapter made school integration their top priority. Inspired by the Brown v. the Board of Education decision, Blackwell, known to history as Gloria Rackley, began to participate and lead nonviolent demonstrations to desegregate the schools, hospitals and other public accommodations. In March of 1963, Blackwell joined more than 400 student demonstrators from Claflin College and South Carolina State University led by Charles McDew who marched to desegregate the downtown area. Supported by the community, but arrested countless times, Blackwell served time in prison and was fired from her job by white school officials in the spring of 1963. Blackwell’s daughter, Lurma, an honor middle school student, was arrested some sixteen times by the time she was thirteen years old. Blackwell and her daughter missed a court date when they were arrested for using the White Ladies Only restroom in the courthouse. The civil rights activities in Orangeburg attracted national attention, including a visit from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and an invitation for Blackwell to speak to the National Teachers Union in New York City. Ably defended by Matthew Perry and encouraged by the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Blackwell accepted a job at Norfolk State University in Virginia in 1964.

At Norfolk, Blackwell served as a professor in the English Department and advised local civil rights efforts from 1964 to 1968. She was director of African American Studies at American International University from 1968 to 1970. She earned her Ph.D. in American Studies from Emory University in 1973 and went on to teach at Clark College until her retirement in 1993.

Blackwell, the mother of two grown daughters and two adopted boys, lived in Peachtree City, Georgia. She was featured along with the other heroes of the Orangeburg movement in the civil rights annals of black photographer Cecil J. Williams.

Blackwell passed away on December 7, 2010 at age 83.

Accession Number

A2006.094

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/18/2006

Last Name

Blackwell

Maker Category
Schools

Boylan-Haven-Mather Academy

Sumter High School

Emory University

First Name

Gloria

Birth City, State, Country

Little Rock

HM ID

BLA11

Favorite Season

Spring

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Washington

Favorite Quote

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

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Interview Description
Birth Date

3/11/1927

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Grits

Death Date

12/7/2010

Short Description

Civil rights activist and english professor Gloria Rackley Blackwell (1927 - 2010 ) led nonviolent demonstrations to desegregate the schools, hospitals and other public accommodations in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

Employment

J.W. Wilcox & Follett Company

Clark Consulting

Favorite Color

Green

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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373121">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Gloria Rackley Blackwell's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373122">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373123">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373124">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes her mother's childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373125">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell talks about her maternal grandmother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373126">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes her maternal family's values</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373127">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes her father's family background, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373128">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes her father's family background, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373129">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls her father's esteem in the community of Little Rock, South Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373130">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes the rumors about her paternal grandfather</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373131">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes her parents' relationship</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373132">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls attending the World's Fair in 1933 and 1939</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373133">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes her parents' marriage</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373134">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell talks about the role of religion in her family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373135">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes her brothers and their education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373136">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373137">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373138">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell remembers being one of her mother's pupils</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373139">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes her experience at Mather Academy, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373140">Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes her experience at Mather Academy, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373141">Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell remembers her religious conversion</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373142">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell talks about Mather Academy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373143">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls her childhood pastimes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373144">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls her mother's role in the community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373145">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls her teenage mischief</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373146">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls graduating high school at sixteen years old</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373147">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell remembers attending Claflin University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373148">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls her friendship with President Joseph B. Randolph</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373149">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls marrying as a student at Claflin University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373150">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls moving to Chicago, Illinois with her husband</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373151">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell remembers working at a bookstore in Chicago</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373152">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls the discrimination her husband faced in the U.S. Navy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373153">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls her parents' civil rights activities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373154">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell remembers reviving the NAACP in Dillon County</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373155">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell reflects upon the impact of school desegregation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373156">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls working to desegregate South Carolina's schools</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373157">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell remembers reprisals against NAACP members</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373158">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes the Dillon County NAACP's network of support</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373159">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls youth participation in the Civil Rights Movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373160">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls the Civil Rights Movement's use of the media</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373161">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell remembers being sent to the penitentiary</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373162">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls being fired for her activism</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373163">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell explains the significance of her termination</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373164">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls the peaceful protest that ended in her imprisonment</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373165">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls demonstrations in Charleston, South Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373166">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell talks about the safety of the student demonstrators</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373167">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls the segregated Orangeburg Regional Hospital</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373168">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls her civil disobedience at Orangeburg Regional Hospital</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373169">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell remembers her arrest at Orangeburg Regional Hospital</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373170">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell remembers her daughter's solitary confinement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373171">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls entering a courthouse's white restroom</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373172">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls the aftermath of her daughter's sentencing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373173">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes her parents' opinions of her activism</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373174">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell remembers how her husband lost his job</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373175">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell remembers the Civil Rights Movement in 1963</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373176">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell explains the importance of publicity for a movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373177">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls the Civil Rights Act of 1964</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373178">Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell remembers moving to Norfolk, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373179">Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell remembers the inaction of sympathetic whites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373180">Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell reflects upon the Civil Rights Movement, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373181">Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell reflects upon the Civil Rights Movement, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373182">Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes her work at Norfolk State College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373183">Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls moving to Atlanta to pursue her Ph.D. degree</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373184">Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell explains the role of faith in the southern Civil Rights Movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373185">Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell reflects upon the Civil Rights Movement's timing and impact</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373186">Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls her decision to attend Emory University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373187">Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes her dissertation at Emory University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373188">Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls being hired by Clark College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373189">Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes her student's research on Modjeska Monteith Simkins, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373190">Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes her student's research on Modjeska Monteith Simkins, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373191">Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373192">Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373193">Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes her two adopted sons</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373194">Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell talks about the value of recording oral histories</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373195">Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373196">Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell remembers her mother's parenting style</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373197">Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell talks about the importance of family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/373198">Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Gloria Rackley Blackwell narrates her photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

7$8

DAStory

6$5

DATitle
Gloria Rackley Blackwell reflects upon the Civil Rights Movement, pt. 1
Gloria Rackley Blackwell recalls being hired by Clark College
Transcript
I don't think, I hope and pray, you know, Martin Luther King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] prayed, God, please let us, please let them learn to, to love, he was talking about white people, God, please let them learn to love before we learn to hate because we, in the South had really a movement where people were controlling their anger, you know, and themselves. The, the, the vicious stuff started in the North, you know, after his death. But we, we were, we were really believing that our movement was Christian, was good for everybody, you know, we were not hurting anybody, we didn't. And he said, let, please let them learn to love before we learn to hate. And I hope, I hope that we can return to a sense of love and not feel that we can, you know, kill and fight. And I, I see so much of that in the country today, the, the viciousness. And I don't know how much spirit we have for being willing to sacrifice ourselves. Every time Martin Luther King went out, he was risking his life. Every time I went out I was risking, I, I, I was risking my life maybe and I, because--surely, I guess. But in my heart I was praying every time I had children on a picket line that that I would get killed or hurt and not one of them. I just did not want anybody, you know, any of these kids walking out, they're just kids right out of school, rushing down getting their things and, you know, going down. They could easily have, and they knew that. You know, we talked about all of that before, but, but they were willing to do that. That took, and those children, we have not got all of them together again but I have not found a child who was not a strong adult. There is something in the core (laughter) it seems to me of their character. They, they seem to be generous people, they give to causes, you know, they are mothers and fathers and the, but they are dedicated and they attach themselves still to humanitarian concerns. It's just, it's just something. Anywhere we go, anywhere we meet them, they're in, they're in work that is giving and, and serving.$So did you teach at Emory [Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia] then after you (unclear)--$$Yes, you know, you do when you're--$$Oh.$$--in school. So I, I was in the ILA which was the Institute of the Liberal Arts [sic. Institute for the Liberal Arts]. A wonderful program at Emory that still exists. And my professor and I became associates. We'd, we would team teach classes, we worked together at, at Atlanta University [Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia] and at Emory we offered classes. And then, of course, I had classes of my own. And then a friend, Lurma [Lurma Rackley] had finished at Clark College [Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia] and a teacher who was very nice to my daughter when she was down here in school, I became friends, I was always grateful to her because she was so nice to Lurma but she came over to tell me that they needed someone at Clark and the president had asked her to come over and see if I could recommend someone, you know, from the students passing through. And he, he said, "Tell Lurma's mother to, (laughter) to look out for us." So he, so I tried to offer someone and when she went back to tell him he said, "Well why can't, why don't we get Lurma's mother" (laughter). And I, I thought that, you know, maybe I shouldn't do that but he told me that with my history I could not stay (laughter) at Emory, I needed to come to Clark where I was needed and he put all that same spiel (laughter) that I have practically just given and, and I fell for it (laughter) and, and came over to Clark and stayed there then for, I guess, twenty years or I have, I finished my degree in '73 [1973] and I retired from Clark in '90 [1990], was it '93 [1993]? I guess, it was '93 [1993].