Early life and education
Ruby Nell Sales was born in 1948 in Jemison, Alabama. She attended local segregated schools and was also educated in the community during the 1960s era of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.
Sales participated, at the age of 17, in the Selma to Montgomery marches of 1965. That year she was arrested in August with some fellow activists in Fort Deposit in Lowndes County, where they were picketing a white-only store. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had prohibited such segregation. They were taken to the county seat of Hayneville and jailed for six days. After being released, she and a few others went to purchase sodas at a nearby store. She was threatened by a shotgun-wielding construction worker, Tom Coleman, who was a special county deputy. One of Sales' fellow marchers, Jonathan Myrick Daniels, a white Episcopal seminarian, pushed her out of the way and took the shot meant for her, dying instantly. Daniels was a 1961 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and Valedictorian of his class.
Sales was so traumatized by Daniels' murder that she nearly lost the ability to speak for the next seven months. Despite death threats made to her and her family, Sales resolved to testify at Tom Coleman's trial. He was acquitted by a jury of 12 white men. The result of the trial led to legal challenges and a reform of the jury selection procedures, which had long excluded blacks, first because they were disenfranchised from voting before 1965, then because of a discriminatory process in developing the jury pool.
Sales went on to attend Episcopal Theological School in Massachusetts which Daniels had attended (now Episcopal Divinity School). She has worked as a human rights advocate in Washington, D.C. She founded The SpiritHouse Project, a non-profit organization and inner-city mission dedicated to Daniels.
- The SpiritHouse Project, a non-profit organization founded and directed by Ruby Sales.
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