Friday, February 11, 2011

In History: Willie Barrow

This is the 64th post in a weekly feature here at Spare Candy, called "In History." Some posts might be little more than a photo, others full on features. If you have any suggestions for a person or event that should be featured, or would like to submit a guest post or cross post, e-mail me at rosiered23 (at) sparecandy (dot) com.

Willie Barrow was born on Dec. 7, 1924. Often called "the Little Warrior," Barrow is best known for her civil rights activism, active role in the Church of God, Operation PUSH leadership, and being campaign manager for presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson.

Barrow was raised in rural Texas on a farm with her six siblings. As a student in Texas in the 1940s, she led a demonstration of rural African American schoolchildren against a segregated school system that refused them bus service because of their race. She was called to ministry when she was sixteen. While studying ministry in Portland, Ore., she organized the first African American Church of God. She was also a welder in a shipyard, where she met Clyde Barrow, whom she married, and where she became involved in the labor movement.

From Portland, Clyde and Willie Barrow moved to Chicago in 1943, where she studied at the Moody Bible Institute and the Central Conservatory of Music, in addition to her work with the Church of God. In the 1950s she became active in the civil rights movement, working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a field organizer for marches and demonstrations.

Barrow helped found Operation Breadbasket in Chicago, which grew into Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity, later People United to Serve Humanity). Barrow was a key "lieutenant" of Jesse Jackson in his much of his Chicago-based activism, working on many projects and in many organizations together, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and a long association with Operation PUSH. When Jackson ran for president for the 1984 election, she served as his campaign manager.

She was the first woman to serve as a national vice president of Operation PUSH, and in 1986, became the president of Operation PUSH, retiring in 1989. She served as a co-chairperson of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition (RPC), and in 2009 was the RPC chairperson, emeritus.

Barrow was also active in working against US involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1968, Barrow and two others led a delegation to North Vietnam. As well, she was active in the National Urban League and the NCNW. She's also been involved in women's issues and in gay and lesbian issues.

You can read more about Barrow here and here.

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