Marti Turnipseed

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Marti Turnipseed

Minnie Martha "Marti" Turnipseed Moore (born c. 1943 in Greensboro; died September 2, 1972 in Detroit, Michigan) was a student at Birmingham-Southern College in 1963 and was asked to leave college for participating in a demonstration during the Birmingham Campaign.

Turnipseed was the daughter of Andrew Turnipseed, a Methodist minister who was transferred to Niagara Falls, New York for publicly supporting the desegregation of public buses in Mobile. Her own study of philosophy and religion at Birmingham-Southern during the critical months of the Civil Rights Movement made her question the morality of segregation. She and a friend attended a mass meeting at First Baptist Church Ensley at which Martin Luther King, Jr spoke. Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth asked her to speak to the crowd, as well. She volunteered to join a sit-in at the Woolworth's lunch counter in downtown Birmingham the next day. She made the three-mile journey from campus on foot to join the other demonstrators.

The seven black demonstrators were arrested by Birmingham police, but Turnipseed was returned to campus without being charged. Under pressure from city leaders, thought, the school forced her to "voluntarily" withdraw from classes. She transferred to Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.

In 1964, after months of petitions to the administration, Turnipseed was re-admitted to Birmingham-Southern and completed her degree a year later. As a senior, she coordinated with student leaders at Miles College to recruit African-Americans to Birmingham-Southern, beginning with Ulysses "Skip" Bennett, who enrolled that year. She also spent time tutoring younger black students. Her reputation as a fearless white female champion for civil rights resulted in numerous invitations to speak at regional and national movement events.

Turnipseed married educator Charles Moore and had one child. The family resided in Detroit, Michigan. She and her 3-year-old daughter, Martha Andrea, died in an automobile accident in 1972.

In 1993 Turnipseed's parents and brother founded a lecture series at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia in her memory. In 2013, as part of Birmingham's 50 Years Forward observances, Birmingham-Southern students, led by President Charles Krulak and Mayor William Bell, re-created Turnipseed's three-mile walk from campus.

References

  • Windham, Ben (December 21, 2003) "Southern Lights: The difference that one person can make." Tuscaloosa News
  • Underwood, Madison (December 13, 2012) "Birmingham-Southern College students to march to downtown Birmingham in April to commemorate 1963 stand by BSC student." The Birmingham News
  • Krulak, Charles (March 13, 2013) "Young Birmingham-Southern student was trailblazer for civil rights." The Birmingham News