- Barefootin’: Life Lessons from the Road to Freedom written with Jo Anne Prichard Morris (2006)
Born March 18, 1933, in Lula, Mississippi, Unita Blackwell is a civil rights activist, community developer, politician, and author. Unita Blackwell is a part of Mississippi history. She did not finish high school and worked in Delta cotton fields until she was 30 years old. Then she was a voter registration worker in the early 1960’s.
Blackwell was the first female African-American mayor in Mississippi, elected in 1976 in Mayersville, MS, and she stayed in office for twenty years until 2001. After a lifetime in the struggles for voter rights for blacks, she is today a Fellow of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and she holds a master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts.
She received a MacArthur Fellowship (MacArthur Genius Award) in 1992. Her autobiography Barefootin’: Life Lessons from the Road to Freedom, written with JoAnne Prichard Morris (wife of Willie Morris) was published in 2006.
She served two years as the president of the National Conference of Black Mayors She holds four honorary doctorates and has received numerous other awards for her contributions to human rights. She has traveled to China sixteen times as a Good Will Ambassador.
A Mississippi Freedom Trail marker honoring Unita Blackwell was unveiled in 2016 in Mayersville, Mississippi at the intersection of Highways 1 and 14.
Unita Blackwell died May 13, 2019, in Ocean Springs Hospital, Mississippi, according to her son, Jeremiah Blackwell, Jr. She was 86.
- Blackpast.org has biography of Unita Blackwell
- Mississippi Civil Rights Project biography of Unita Blackwell
- Interview with Unita Blackwell by American Public Media
- 1977 Interviews conducted by Mike Garvey. Stored in University of Southern Mississippi’s Digital Collections
- Unita Blackwell: MacArthur Genius Award Caps a Creative Political Life (1992, LA Times)