As we celebrate Black History Month, I'll bring you stories of female historic icons who opened doors that led to the successes of modern women. Shirley Chisholm was one of them. She was a real political heavyweight - a real trailblazer.
In 1964, she became the first black congresswoman, one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and 12 years later, the first black woman to run for president. She also inspired Edna Jackson, Savannah's first black female mayor along the way. Just recently named one of Georgia's most influential leaders, Edna Jackson is a woman of influence.
It was one of the most recognizable events in our nation's history, the March on Washington in 1963. Hundreds of thousands filled the national mall for the march for jobs and freedom. We know that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the featured speaker, but I bet you didn't know that an 18 year old Edna Jackson was in that massive crowd. She was working with the NAACP organizing youth councils and college chapters. "We took an integrated group to Washington for the March in three station wagons. We were mesmerized and I think it really opened our eyes as young people just to be in the presence of that kind of leadership made you feel very proud," recalled Mayor Edna Jackson.
She continued her work with the NAACP in Florida and Alabama. She even participated in another one of the most famous civil rights marches, the march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights in 1965. Because of the violence, it became known as Bloody Sunday. Mayor Jackson admits that at the time, her work with the NAACP was her top priority. "I worked full-time with the NAACP until they said it was time for me to go back to school. I said no. I need to fight for freedom. I'll never forget my boss asked, what are you going to do with that freedom once you get it? I couldn't answer that question and they sent me back to school. So I owe a lot to the NAACP," added Jackson.
She went back to Savannah State and that's where she met Shirley Chisholm as she was on her historic run for the White House. "Here was a very petite, gracious lady and when she spoke, she just made you know that one day we would have an African-American president." That speech ignited a flame in Edna Jackson that made her realize that she too could do great things.
Mayor Jackson says she never dreamed of becoming mayor even after she was elected to city council, but admits it is her proudest accomplishment. To have her son stand alongside her, holding her late mother's bible on her inauguration night, made that moment even more special.