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Willie “Mae” Mallory (1927 – 2007) was the founder of and spokesperson for the Harlem Nine. The group of nine Black mothers sued the New York City Board of Education for the poor conditions of Black schools. Mallory took action after her children, Patricia and Keefer, Jr., informed her of the deplorable conditions in their segregated school, P.S. 10, in Harlem. She joined the Parent’s Committee For Better Education, becoming a dedicated and vocal advocate for Black children to have safe environments and high-quality education.

Founded in 1956, the Harlem Nine demanded improved conditions and school integration. The group encountered many obstacles in bringing the lawsuit. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to jail the mothers during the case. The Harlem Nine received support in their efforts from the local NAACP and civil rights activist Ella Baker, and political activist and clergyman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Remember that the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision which called for school desegregation, had been passed three years before this case. During this time, a group of high school students known as the “Little Rock Nine” attempted to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas as well. Both of these desegregation efforts took place in the south. The Harlem Nine case took place in the north, thus highlighting that school segregation was still occurring even in the supposedly more liberal north.

Continue reading “Mothers On A Mission: Mae Mallory And The Harlem Nine”