Mae Mallory (June 9, 1927 – 2007) was an activist of the Civil Rights Movement[1][2] and a Black Power movement leader active in the 1950s and 1960s. She is best known as an advocate of school desegregation[3] and of black armed self-defense.[4]


Mallory was born in Macon, Georgia, on June 9, 1927. She later went to live in New York City with her mother in 1939.

In 1956, Mallory was a founder and spokesperson of the "Harlem 9", a group of African-American mothers who protested the inferior and inadequate conditions in segregated New York City schools. Inspired by a report by Kenneth and Mamie Clark on inexperienced teachers, overcrowded classrooms, dilapidated conditions, and gerrymandering to promote segregation in New York, the group sought to transfer their children to integrated schools that offered higher quality resources.[3]

"Harlem 9" activism included lawsuits against the city and state, filed with the help of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). By 1958 it escalated to public protests and a 162-day boycott involving 10,000 parents. The boycott campaign did not win formal support from the NAACP, but was assisted by leaders such as Ella Baker and Adam Clayton Powell, and endorsed by African-American newspapers such as the Amsterdam News.[5] While the children were engaged in another boycott in 1960, the campaign established some of the first Freedom Schools of the civil rights movement to educate them.[3]

New York City retaliated against the mothers, trying and failing to prosecute them for negligence. In 1960, Mallory and the Harlem 9 won their lawsuit, and the Board of Education allowed them, and over a thousand other parents, to transfer their children to integrated schools. That year, the Board of Education announced a general policy of Open Enrollment, and thousands more black children transferred to integrated schools over the next five years. (Overall integration in the city was thwarted, however, by the practice of white flight.)[3][6]

She supported Robert F. Williams, the Monroe, North Carolina NAACP chapter leader, and author of Negroes with Guns,[7] During the Freedom Rides in August 1961, she worked with Williams in protecting Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activists who were demonstrating in Monroe. This led to armed confrontations with white supremacists and allegations of kidnapping a white couple.

She went to Ohio, and was supported by the Monroe Defense Committee, and the Workers World Party,[8] in her extradition and kidnapping trial. In 1961–65, she was jailed for kidnapping, but was later released after the North Carolina Supreme Court determined racial discrimination in the jury selection.[9][10] COINTELPRO tried to break up the support group Committee to Support the Monroe Defendants.[11]

She mentored Yuri Kochiyama.[12]

She was a friend of Madalyn Murray O'Hair.[13] On February 21, 1965, Mallory was present at the assassination of Malcolm X at the Audubon Ballroom. In April 1965, she was instrumental in a Times Square protest against the 1965 United States occupation of the Dominican Republic. On August 8, 1966, she spoke at an anti-Vietnam War rally.[4]

She was an organizer of the Sixth Pan-African Congress held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1974.[14] In 1974, she lived in Mwanza, Tanzania.[15]

Her papers are held at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University.[16]



  1. ^ "THE MAE MALLORY COLLECTION Papers, 1961–1967", Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University.
  2. ^ Foong, Yie, M.A., "Frame up in Monroe: The Mae Mallory Story", Sarah Lawrence College.
  3. ^ a b c d Melissa F. Weiner, Power, Protest, and the Public Schools: Jewish and African American Struggles in New York City (Rutgers University Press, 2010) pp. 51-66.
  4. ^ a b Jeanette Merrill and Rosemary Neidenberg, "Mae Mallory: unforgettable freedom fighter promoted self-defense", Workers World, February 26, 2009.
  5. ^ Patrick G. Coy (ed.), Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change (Emerald Group, 2011), pp. 305-312.
  6. ^ Adina Back, "Exposing the Whole Segregation Myth: The Harlem Nine and New York City Schools" in Jeanne Theoharis, Komozi Woodard (eds), Freedom North: Black freedom struggles outside the South, 1940-1980 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), pp. 65-91.
  7. ^ Kevin Kelly Gaines, American Africans in Ghana: Black expatriates and the civil rights era (University North Carolina Press, 2006), pp. 146–149.
  8. ^ A. T. Simpson, "After one year of hell Mae Mallory is still a champion", Workers World, October 26, 1962.
  9. ^ James Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries (University of Washington Press, 1997), pp. 206-210.
  10. ^ "From the NAACP To The Monroe Defense Committee: African American Women’s Activism".
  11. ^ Ward Churchill, Jim Vander Wall (2002). The COINTELPRO papers: documents from the FBI's secret wars against dissent in the United States. South End Press. ISBN 978-0-89608-648-7.((cite book)): CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  12. ^ Diane Carol Fujino (2005). Heartbeat of Struggle: the revolutionary life of Yuri Kochiyama. University of Minnesota Press. p. 169. ISBN 978-0-8166-4593-0.
  13. ^ Ann Rowe Seaman (2005). America's Most Hated Woman: the life and gruesome death of Madalyn Murray O'Hair. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-8264-1644-5.
  14. ^ "Some Personal Reflections on the Sixth Pan-African Congress", Encyclopædia Britannica.
  15. ^ Black World, October 1974.
  16. ^ Mae Mallory Papers. Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.
  17. ^ Note for the references: A.T. Simpson was an alias for Clarence H. Seniors, Chairman of Cleveland's Monroe Defense Committee