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JoAnn Gibson-Robinson

JoAnn Gibson-Robinson (1912-1992)

Educator/Freedom Walker/Motivator

During Black History Month 2014, the Center for the Church and the Black Experience is honoring faithful Black women freedom fighters. Today we honor JoAnn Gibson-Robinson.

JoAnn Gibson-RobinsonJoAnn Robinson was born in Culledon, Georgia and was educated in the segregated public schools of Macon, Ga. Education was her life and she worked with colleagues, students, and community leaders to African-Americans set free. After graduating from Fort Valley State College, she taught school in Macon and eventually went on to earn an M.A. in English from Atlanta University.  In 1949 after accepting a faculty position at Alabama State College in Montgomery, Mrs. Robinson joined the Women's Political Council (WPC: a civic organization which sought to increase the political leverage of the black community by promoting involvement) eventually becoming president in 1950. Her defining moment as President came after enduring an insulting encounter with a Montgomery bus driver. Mrs. Robinson vowed to end racialized seating on the city's buses. Using her position as president of the Council, she wrote a letter to the Mayor of Montgomery with the gentle threat to boycott if such behavior did end.

Following Mrs. Rosa Park’s arrest in December 1955, Mrs. Robinson played a central role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott by producing the leaflets that spread word of the Boycott among Montgomery’s Black citizens. She wrote in her memoir “The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It” (1987) how she, Mrs. T.M. Glass, Mrs. Z.J. Pierce, and Mrs. Irene West approached ministers from area churches to urge their support to support the boycott of the Montgomery bus system.  

Mrs. Robinson became one of the most active board members of the Montgomery Improvement Association (an organization comprised of Black ministers and community leaders most notable for guiding the Montgomery Bus Boycott) but she remained out of the limelight in order to protect her teaching position at Alabama State as well as those of her colleagues. In 1960, Mrs. Robinson left Alabama State (and Montgomery), as did other activist faculty members. After teaching one year at Grambling College, Mrs. Robinson moved to Los Angeles, where she taught English in the public schools until her retirement in 1976. She remained active in a number of women's community groups until her death in 1992 at the age of 80.

Sources:
Photo:  Rivers of Change http://tinyurl.com/k76yhaf
http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/jo-ann-gibson-robinson-was-unsung-activist  (Accessed 12/26/1)
National Humanities Center Resource Toolbox, The Making of African-American Identity: Vol III, 1917-1968 PDF http://tinyurl.com/me2osf3 (Accessed 12/26/13)
http://awodarchive.blogspot.com/2012/04/jo-ann-gibson-robinson.html (Accessed 1/15/14)
http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_montgomery_improvement_association/ (Accessed 1/15/14)

Compiled by Beverly Moore

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