Longtime civil rights leader, lawyer and activist Frankie Muse Freeman has died, her family announced Friday evening as prominent figures and organizations in the United States issued statements honoring her extraordinary life and career. She was 101.
“She went peacefully with her family beside her,” her daughter Shelbe Patricia Bullock said. “We ask for privacy until Sunday so we can plan services. She was a marvelous, warm woman, and we want to send her off in a good way.”
Freeman was an African-American woman raised in a segregated town in Virginia, who later grew up to become a civil rights lawyer fighting to end segregated housing and promoting equal rights at the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. in the 1960s.
“My commitment was to work for elimination of discrimination,” Freeman, who some later called her “Frankie Freedom”, told the St Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper in 1988. “I could not accept the segregation that existed while I was growing up … I really do believe in the Declaration of Independence. I really believe that all men, all women are created equally.’”
She is well-known for winning the landmark 1954 case Davis et al. v. the St. Louis Housing Authority, which ended legal racial discrimination in local public housing.
In 1964 She became the first woman to be appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which investigates discrimination complaints and advises the president and lawmakers on issues of discrimination and equal protection.
She served in that body for 16 years and her first assignment was in Mississippi to investigate the bombing of four Black churches during the late 1960s.
In 2007, Freeman was included in the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Georgia for her leadership role in the Civil Rights Movement. Back in November Freeman was honored with a statue in the city of St. Louis. It depicts Freeman leaving the courthouse after winning the 1954 case.
On her 100th birthday in October 2016, the St. Louis National Association for the Advancement of Colored People threw her a party to honor her exceptional life and work for advancing the rights of Black people and people of color in the United States.
"Attorney Frankie Muse Freeman tackled civil rights issues like the work of a blacksmith, forging a brighter future for society and bending the iron will of those who would oppose such," Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis City NAACP, had said during the party.