Mae Mallory as an activist and freedom fighter who was at the forefront of some of the civil rights movement’s major events. Mallory was a founder of the Harlem Nine who railed against New York’s segregated school system and was a supporter of Black radical Robert F. Williams.
Born June 9, 1927 in Macon, Georgia, Mallory moved to New York with her mother at the age of 12. In 1956, she became the founder and spokesperson for the Harlem Nine, a group of Black mothers who were critical of the poor conditions of Black schools and called for school integration. The Nine faced several legal hurdles, despite the federal ruling of “Brown v. Board of Education” and several attempts to jail them eventually failed.
The efforts of the Nine included a successful lawsuit in 1960 which allowed thousands of parents to transfer their children to racially integrated schools. This came after help from the local NAACP and a 162-day boycott prior with leaders like Ella Baker and Adam Clayton Powell involved. Many of the first so-called “freedom schools” of the civil rights era were established as a result of the Nine’s work on the ground.
In 1959, Williams, who was also the leader of the Monroe, N.C. NAACP, befriended Mallory after a visit to New York. Mallory was taken with Williams’ message of self-defense and self-reliance and organized a group of supporters. By 1961, Mallory was aligned with Williams but they were met with resistance from white locals who feared a revolution. Unlike most of the civil rights activists of the time, Williams believed in responding with violence when confronted by it.
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After Williams and Mallory were falsely accused of kidnapping a white couple, she fled to Cleveland, Ohio to escape what she felt would be an unfair jury. Williams fled to Cuba, allegedly with Mallory’s assistance. Mallory fought extradition to Monroe and instead served time in Cleveland. She became an avid writer and many of her works centered on her activism.
In 1965, Mallory was one of the attendees in the Audubon Ballroom in New York when Malcolm X was assassinated. Her already radical idealogy increased from that point on, and she eventually became involved in the Black Power Movement and the Pan-African Congress in the early ’70’s.
Mallory passed in 2007.
PHOTO: Public Domain