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On this date in 1899, Anna Arnold Hedgeman was born. She was a Black politician and activist.
She was born in Marshalltown, Iowa, and raised in a home of former slaves in both parents and grandparents. Anna Arnold grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, where at breakfast prayers were said for the day. At night, all of her family members reported on how they had been useful. Useful was the optimum word, useful to yourself and useful to life. In 1922, she became the first Black woman to graduate from St. Paul’s Hamline University. In 1936 she married Merritt A. Hedgeman, an interpreter and singer of Black folk music and opera, the couple had no children.
For two years, Hedgeman taught English and History at Rust College, a historically black college in Holly Springs, Mississippi, where she had her first experience with segregation. Hedgeman began work in the community in the 1920s when she became executive director of a Black branch of the YWCA in Jersey City, New Jersey. She worked for the YWCA as an executive director in Ohio, New Jersey, Harlem, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn. All of these branches were segregated. Throughout the 1930s, she remained active in protest activities, her militancy resulting in a forced resignation from the directorship of the Black branch of the Brooklyn YWCA.
Hedgeman also served as the executive director of the National Committee for a Permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission, Assistant Dean of Women at Howard University, associate editor for the New York Age, a consultant for the public relations department of Fuller Products Company, and on Harry Truman's 1948 presidential campaign. Hamline awarded her an Honorary Doctor degree in 1948.
Hedgeman was a NOW co-founder and the first Black woman to serve on a mayoral cabinet in New York City from 1954 to 1958. She is also credited with recruiting over 40,000 Protestant churchmen to participate in the 1963 March on Washington. Dr. Hedgeman died on January 17 1990 in Harlem Hospital. Today, her portrait hangs in The National Gallery in Washington, D.C.
I Dream A World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America
Edited by Barbara Summers
Photos and Interviews by Brian lanker
Copyright 1989, Workman Publishing