Unita Blackwell became the first Black woman elected mayor in the state of Mississippi, this after working across the state as a member of the civil rights movement. She passed on May 13th.
Blackwell was born on March 18, 1933 in the town of Lula to sharecropping parents. With opportunities limited in the state, Blackwell began her education in Arkansas while also working in the field. As a teenager, she lived for a time in Florida but returned to Mississippi, involving herself in voter registration and education fairness efforts.
Blackwell was aligned with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and was elected a member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Blackwell was also involved with the Freedom Summer movement, and worked for the National Council of Negro Women.
In 1976, Blackwell was elected mayor of Mayersville, where she and her family settled upon her return. Blackwell held the post until 2001 and while the town never held more than several hundred people at a time, she worked diligently to bring prominence to Mayersville and its people. Throughout her political tenure, Blackwell was a strong fair housing advocate for impoverished people across her home state.
As her health declined, Blackwell settled in the Mississippi Gulf region in the 2000s. Her son, Jeremiah Blackwell Jr., confirmed that his mother passed from complications related to her long bout with dementia.
Unita Blackwell was 86.
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