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Tue, 02.24.1931

Lillie Brown, Activist born

*Lillie Brown was born on this date in 1931. She was a Black civil rights activist.

From Troy, Ala., she was one of five daughters of a domestic worker. She joined the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights in 1956. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. brought his non-violent movement for civil rights to Birmingham, Brown joined the thousands of protesters in marches and lunch counter sit-ins.   The police chief, Bull Connor, attempted to crush with police dogs and fire hoses.  She was badly injured when she was struck full force by a fire hose, but she refused to be taken to the hospital.

Later, she joined the lunch counter sit-in movement in St. Augustine, Fla., and spent six weeks in solitary confinement at the Jacksonville State Penitentiary for the "crime" of attempting to integrate a Woolworth's lunch counter. When the voting rights battle erupted in Selma in 1964, Brown rose before dawn to make peanut butter sandwiches for the voting rights workers or join the marches. She was trampled by Alabama state troopers and club-wielding deputies of Dallas County Sheriff Jim Clark during the first bridge crossing on "Bloody Sunday."

Just before she led this year's march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Brown stood on the steps of a church and led the crowd in singing, "Ain't gonna let no Bush-whack turn me round." Then she raised her arms and sang, "Keep your eyes on the prize; hold on!" Lillie Brown, who braved police dogs, billy clubs, and long stints in jail to win freedom for her people, died on April 20, 2001, after a long illness. She was 70 years old.

Her pastor of 28 years, the Rev. Edsel Davis, called her a "foot soldier for justice." "Mama" Brown spent time in Selma working in the successful campaign to elect Selma's first Black mayor, James Perkins Jr. She also marched in Florida in 2000 to demand that the votes be counted in the presidential election.

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