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Lucy Parsons, 1851 to 1942
A native of Texas, Lucy Parsons was of African American, Native American, and Mexican ancestry. In 1870, she married Albert Parsons and the two worked to register Black voters. After Albert was shot and threatened with lynching in 1872, they moved to Chicago. There, they became involved with anarchist activities supporting the labor movement. Lucy held union meetings and wrote articles for radical publications. In 1887, Albert was wrongly convicted in the death of a police officer during a peaceful protest at Haymarket Square. Lucy traveled the country speaking for his clemency but could not prevent his execution. Afterwards, she dedicated herself to anarchism, rejecting the class system that oppressed workers. She advocated for free speech and a woman’s right to divorce, remarriage, and birth control. In 1905, Parsons led a march of 10,000 in San Francisco to protest the city’s refusal to recognize an unemployment committee promoting public works projects. In 1925, she began collaborating with the Communist Party to fight for African Americans wrongly accused of crimes. Her efforts in 1931 to gain clemency for eight young Black teenagers in Memphis wrongly convicted of rape would help lead to the Civil Rights movement in later decades.