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Women’s History Month: Georgia Gilmore

Georgia Gilmore adjusts her hat for photographers in 1956 during the bus boycott trial of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Montgomery, Ala. She testified: “When you pay your fare and they count the money, they don’t know the Negro money from white money.” (AP)

March is Women’s History Month, an annual recognition dedicated to reflecting on the often-overlooked contributions of women to U.S. history. The bravery, brilliance, inventiveness, and daring of women, both past and present, have lead to tremendously important additions to our collective history. We acknowledge and honor all of the labor and leadership of women everywhere, especially recognizing the valuable contributions of Black, Indigenous and other women of color and trans women who have faced unthinkable oppression and violence. Every major social movement for justice has heavily relied on the strategy and vision of women, and we express our gratitude to the countless women organizers, builders, creatives, thinkers, scholars, scientists, and leaders who have paved the way for us today. Their stories and legacies of resistance and liberation are a critical part of our history and our work of growing food justice. Follow along as we highlight different women during Women’s History Month.

Georgia Gilmore was a Black woman from Montgomery, Alabama, born on February 5, 1920. Gilmore was a Montgomery cook, midwife, and activist who fundraised for the civil rights movement. When Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and others met at the Holt Street Baptist Church to hold meetings of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), Gilmore was there selling fried chicken sandwiches to the folks who had gathered. Gilmore organized Black women to sell pound cakes, sweet potato pies, fried fish and stewed greens, pork chops and rice at beauty salons, laundromats, cab stands, and churches. Gilmore then immediately reinvested her profits in the city-wide bus boycott aimed at desegregating public transportation.

The funds she raised helped pay for the alternative transportation system that Black communities relied on during the 382-day bus boycott. There were hundreds of cars, trucks, and wagons that transported workers to and from their jobs each day and Gilmore’s cooking helped pay for the insurance, gas, and repairs that kept the system running.

Gilmore and a collection of other Black women organized under the group name “the Club from Nowhere,” and raised hundreds of dollars a week. Their earnings were donated each week to the MIA. Gilmore leveraged her strengths and her community to produce capital that was crucial to keeping the boycott alive. Inspired by food, anchored by community, and driven by a relentless pursuit of justice, Gilmore reminds us all that we have a role to play in the revolution!