The unsung national hero Anna Arnold Hedgeman, who was an executive of the YWCA and the first African-American woman to serve on a New York City mayoral board, is the latest subject in NY1's coverage for Black History Month. NY1's Shazia Khan filed the following report.
Anna Arnold Hedgeman is not of the most widely known woman in the civil rights movement, but her fight for equality was invaluable.
"She stands head and shoulders in that whole pentacle of those women who stepped out there aggressively and assertively, in saying that 'We won't be pushed aside,' 'We won't be marginalized' and 'We will be heard,'" says author-historian Herb Boyd.
Born and raised in the Midwest, Anna Arnold Hedgeman found a home in Harlem. She secured social services for the city in her role as an executive of the YWCA.
As a tireless and influential advocate for the downtrodden, Hedgeman's work won her a position as an assistant to Mayor Robert Wagner from 1954 to 1958, making her the first female African-American to serve on a new york city mayoral board.
"From that particular podium, she could kind of make sure that the concerns, here in the Harlem community, were taken care of," says Boyd. "I think one of the things about her was that she was very diplomatic. You can understand someone who had been well schooled in political affairs. She knew how to be like a minister, without a portfolio."
That was the case with the civil rights movement's March on Washington in 1963.
"She observed that no women were on the program to speak on that momentous occasion and she voiced her opposition to that and she approached A. Philip Randolph, who was the overall architect, and Bayard Rustin, even Dr. [Martin Luther] King and expressed her concern about that," says Boyd. "And they finally kind of grudgingly capitulated and made some room there for women to at least have a moment on the podium."
Hedgeman ran unsuccessfully for a congressional seat in the Bronx and lost a bid for City Council president in the 1960s.
She wrote two books, "The Trumpet Sounds" and "The Gift Of Chaos," giving readers a closer look at her activism, which should never be forgotten.