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Tue, 05.16.1916

Thelma Glass, Educator, and Activist born

Thelma Glass

*Thelma Glass was born on this date in 1916. She was a Black educator and activist.

She was born Thelma McWilliams in Mobile, Alabama, to a hotel cook and homemaker. She graduated from Dunbar High School (Mobile) and attended Alabama State University and Columbia University.  She married Arthur Glass in 1942, and both taught geography at Alabama State University, where her husband was also a professor.

She was an early member of the Women's Political Council (WPC), Glass had joined the organization in 1947 and was its secretary. In 1955, after Rosa Parks' arrest, she, and the other WPC members, called for a boycott of the Montgomery transit system, thus beginning the Montgomery bus boycott, a key episode in the American Civil Rights Movement. She passed out fliers, alerted the community, and urged passengers to walk or carpool. Soon she noticed every bus that went by was empty of passengers. Although there was sometimes violent retaliation, the boycott continued, and eventually, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation on buses was unconstitutional and the boycott ended.

Academically Glass’s main interests in geography included local and regional research in economic, cultural, and physical geography; excellence in education to prepare students for careers in teaching, government, and industry; and the introduction of geography into senior high schools in Alabama.

She was well known on campus as a teacher-activist willing to put the values she espoused into action. The glass was deeply committed to the development and future success of her students and sought to introduce them to a broad-based education through the contextualization provided by geography education.

In 2011, Glass received ASU’s Black and Gold Standard Award, a non-annual award that is given to the school’s most notable alumni. She received many teaching awards throughout her career. An auditorium is named for Glass on the Alabama State University campus. Thelma Glass died on July 24, 2012, at the age of 96.

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