Georgia Teresa Gilmore (February 5, 1920 – March 3, 1990) was an African American woman from Montgomery, Alabama, who participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycott through her fund-raising effort selling food at the boycott's mass meetings. Her grass-roots activism helped to sustain the long boycott and inspired similar groups to begin raising money.
Gilmore worked as a midwife in Montgomery where she lived with her six children. Though described as kind and motherly, Gilmore was also known for her fiery temper especially in response to the racial injustices so common in 1950s Alabama. She would resist discrimination on buses and even confronted white men in the community if they mistreated her or her family. Gilmore also worked at the National Lunch Company in Montgomery as a cook until the beginning of the bus boycott in late 1955.
After Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to leave her seat on December 1, 1955, the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) declared a boycott of the bus system beginning on December 5. Gilmore, who had already refused to use the buses in Montgomery, heard of the arrest on the news and quickly joined the new Montgomery Improvement Association; this is when the boycott began. Gilmore's involvement in the boycott along with her vocal contempt for discriminatory white bus drivers resulted in her being fired from the National Lunch Company, but this only increased her participation within the MIA and the boycott later saying, "this new generation had decided that they just had taken as much as they could." Following her dismissal from the Lunch Company, Martin Luther King, Jr. (who lived nearby) and other MIA leaders helped Gilmore set up her own restaurant in her home as a way for her to make a living. It was then that she began the boycott fund-raising effort which she called the Club from Nowhere.
Club from Nowhere
Georgia Gilmore stated that "what we could do best was cook" and so began, with a group of friends, making sandwiches to sell at the mass meetings for the boycott and the MIA. The success of this venture led Gilmore and her friends to produce entire meals, including chicken dinners, cakes, and pies to sell to the boycotters. The money from these sales went towards helping the Montgomery Improvement Association and to sustain the boycott for as long as possible. Gilmore dubbed her group "the Club from Nowhere" to ensure the anonymity of the members as well as contributors (some of whom were white). In an effort to avoid any conflict, Gilmore established herself as the only officer in the Club from Nowhere; members gave her all the money they made, which she then passed to the leaders of the MIA at weekly mass meetings. The club soon began raising hundreds of dollars a week by selling their meals out of beauty parlors, Laundromats, and other locations frequented by both boycotters and supporters of the movement and would present their weekly gains at the meetings to the applause of the audience. Gilmore hoped that the success of the group had encouraged other "ordinary folks" to do the same. This organization and others like it are cited by some as what kept the boycott alive by providing money as well as grass-roots support within the community.
Gilmore and the Club from Nowhere show how the extensive efforts of African-American women aided and sustained the bus boycott, both in their financial contributions and in their commitment to the boycott itself. The club prompted the creation of a "rival" organization (called the Friendly Club) that also helped fund-raising for the MIA. Her son Mark later stated that she had "elevated her day-to-day work—doing the cooking—into something greater." In a 1986 interview, Gilmore credited African American women with being a driving force behind the boycott's success saying, "you see they were maids, cooks. And they was the one that really and truly kept the bus running."
Gilmore participated in the Eyes on the Prize documentary and her famous recipes still appear in cookbooks. She died on the 25th anniversary of the Selma March, making food for the commemorators.
- McGuire, Danielle (2010). At the Dark End of the Stree. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 96–97. ISBN 978-0-307-26906-5.
- York, Jamie; The Kitchen Sisters (4 March 2005). "The Club From Nowhere: Cooking for Civil Rights". NPR. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
- Blackside, Inc. "Interview with Georgia Gilmore, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on February 17, 1986, for Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965)". Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection. Archived from the original on 3 April 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2011.