On this day, Unita Blackwell was born in Lula, Mississippi. Blackwell would go on to be a central figure in the civil rights movement, helping to stage voting drives across the South as project director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She is also credited with starting the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party along with Fannie Lou Hamer, which served in opposition to the state’s all-white delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. In 1976, she became the first Black female elected as mayor of the town of Mayersville, Mississippi.
Also on this day, in 1963, singer and actress Vanessa Williams was born. Williams would be the first Black woman crowed Miss America in 1983. Before the end of her reign, she stepped down in the wake of a nude photo scandal. She would go on to enjoy a successful singing career, nabbing a Grammy nomination for her 1988 debut album, The Right Stuff, and acting career, performing on Broadway and grabbing starring roles in popular TV series like Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives.
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