Throughout history, in great beginnings, during iconic moments, and groundbreaking change, a Black woman living in her purpose can likely be found. One will find a Black woman at the helm leading with excellence during many significant historical moments. With this understanding, Black women have been and always will be history makers in a culture whose legacy knows no boundaries that Civil Rights Leader, Lenora Rolla, founded the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society. Among the founding charter members can be found women who built a community with the goal in mind to serve the city of Fort Worth. Those who are often overlooked and underrepresented in rooms of power while also preserving the foundational legacies that were guiding their history and mentoring the community leaders of tomorrow.
Take, for example, community leader Opal Lee, also known as "The Grandmother of Juneteenth," and current nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, Opal Lee has always been, first and foremost, a profound educator, just as many other memorable Black women in Fort Worth. Women like Mae Cora Peterson, whose career as an educator culminated as the Dean of Girls at Paul Laurence Dunbar, impacting the lives of many other Black female leaders for over 25 years. One must also consider the impact of educator Tommie Elizabeth Allen Andrews, the founder of a preschool that at one time was a shining example of education in the Black community of Fort Worth.
Fort Worth has been lucky to be the home of many Black women who are considered innovative founders in their own right, like Dr. Marie Brooks, a graduate of Howard University and Civil Rights Leader, whose foundation to this day invests in the community she loved so much. In good company with Dr. Brooks is fellow activist Judge Maryellen Hicks, the first Black woman to graduate from Texas Tech School of Law, who opened countless doors in Fort Worth for those who want to "be engaged, be involved."
Being the first is not always easy, but one would never know when tracing the historical accomplishments of Lucille B. Smith, as she aligned her passion for food with her entrepreneurial skills to the extent that Eleanor Roosevelt is counted amongst Smith's customers. The reputation established by Smith as a Black businesswoman is continued today through the efforts of Lillie Biggins and Norma Roby, both powerhouses in the Fort Worth community whose impact in their respective fields and whose community works far outside the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Because Fort Worth history is the lived stories of many whose legacy and influence are just as unmeasurable now in the year 2022 as it was in the year 1977, the importance of the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society is far-reaching. And there is no better living legend to nourish that legacy, while acknowledging the Black women champions of today, than Brenda Sanders-Wise. As an educator and historian, Brenda Sanders-Wise understands and embodies the importance of celebrating the trailblazers of the past, rejoicing in the achievements of today, and hopeful for the prospects of the future, all of which are possible due to Sanders-Wise’s tireless efforts of Executive Director of the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society. Through the passion, continuous sharing of knowledge, and upholding of the legendary influences of so many Fort Worthian Black women, the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society continues to be supported by living legends.
Legends who are educators of tomorrow's leaders. Legends who are business figureheads. Legends who are cultural and community leaders. Legends and changemakers just as each and every woman below.
Sarah Walker | Rhonda Pruitt | Dr. Jennifer Giddings Brooks | Elvia McBride | Deborah Peoples | Marie Holliday, DMD | Nichole Henry | Wyntress B. Ware | Alyce Adair Jones | Jerline M. Harvey | Clara Faulkner | Marjorie Crenshaw | Lorraine C. Miller |Vada Felder | Kam Phillips-Sadler | Jill Darden | Sonia Williams-Babers | Christene Moss | Lillian B. Horace | Gleniece Robinson | Dionne Bagsby | Hazel Harvey Peace | Bertha Collins | Amanda Davis | Dr. Gwendolyn Morrison | Viola Pitts | Charmion Polk | Erma Johnson Hadley | Gwen Barbee | Nicole Collier | Bobbie Edmonds | Maude I. Logan | Estella Williams | Gyna Bivens | Kelly Allen Gray | Kathleen Hicks | Velenda Dewberry | Deitra Whitmore