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*Marie Foster was born on this date in 1917. She was a Black educator and a civil rights activist.
She was born Marie Priscilla Martin near Alberta, Alabama. Foster's mother took her to Selma to get an education against Foster's father's wishes. Foster did not initially complete high school, but instead dropped out, married, and raised three children. After her husband's death, Foster worked low-wage jobs but eventually completed high school, went to a junior college, and became a dental hygienist.
Foster became interested in the American Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960 as she tried to register to vote eight times before succeeding. Following her successful registration, Foster began teaching other Blacks how to pass the tests used to bar them. One person showed up to her first class, in which she taught the 70-year-old man how to write his own name. Gradually, the classes drew more and more people. As the Civil Rights Movement grew, Foster became an organizer for the Dallas County area.
She participated in the demonstration on March 7, 1965 that became known as Bloody Sunday. As the march approached the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a combined state trooper and police force stopped the march, violently beating many of the participants. Foster was at the front of one of the lines, and was clubbed by a state trooper, leaving her with her with swollen knees. Despite her injuries, two weeks later Foster participated in the march that eventually made it all the way to Montgomery, Alabama, successfully walking fifty miles over five days.
"Even in her old age, she could still outwork the young activists of today," said Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. The vest Foster wore during the march was autographed by many leaders of the civil rights movement and is now on display in Selma at the National Voting Rights Institute and Museum. "Mother Marie Foster, through her citizenship classes and her fiery stances at the courthouse had actually added more Black voters than all the marching and demonstrations together had produced," said J.L. Chestnut Jr., a Black attorney in Selma.
Marie Foster died on September 6, 2003 at a hospital, where she was taken about a week earlier. The cause of death was not released.
The Associated Press