Mary Fair Burks

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Mary Fair Burks
Mary Fair Burks.jpg
Born Mary Fair
(1914-07-31)July 31, 1914
Montgomery, Alabama
Died July 21, 1991(1991-07-21) (aged 76)
Salisbury, Maryland
Occupation civil rights activist, academic
Years active 1930s–1991
Spouse(s) Nathaniel W. Burks (m. 1946)
Children one

Mary Fair Burks (July 31, 1914 – July 21, 1991) was an American educator, scholar, and civil rights activist from Montgomery, Alabama.


Burks was born in Montgomery, Alabama, on July 31, 1914,[1] the daughter of Gustavus "Gus" Samuel and Ollie (née Williams) Fair. She attended Alabama State University and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1933, and Michigan State University where she earned a Master of Arts degree in 1934.[2] She was head of the English department at Alabama State College in the late 1940s and early 1950s.[3] In 1946, she founded the Women's Political Council, an organization that promoted civic involvement, helped increase voter registration, and lobbied city officials to address racist policies. Burks was president of the WPC until 1950, when she decided to step down: "The position was demanding and I had been in office longer than I intended." She continued to be a part of the WPC. In 1955-56, she and other WPC members helped initiate and provide support for the Montgomery bus boycott.

In 1960, Burks resigned from Alabama State College after several professors were fired for their involvement in civil rights issues. She then taught literature at the University of Maryland until her retirement in 1986. Burks was appointed to a National Endowment for the Humanities reviewing panel in 1979.[4] She died on July 21, 1991.[5]

Works cited[edit]

  • Burks, Mary Fair. "Women in the Montgomery Bus Boycott". In Vicki L. Crawford, Jacqueline Anne Rouse, and Barbara Woods (eds), Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers 1941-1965, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993, pp. 71–83.


  1. ^ United States Social Security Death Index
  2. ^ Robert Cecil Cook, Who's who in American Education: A Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Living Educators of the United States, Volume 20, 1962.
  3. ^ "Unsung Heroes of Civil Rights Struggle". The Sacramento Bee. February 28, 1998. 
  4. ^ "Pacesetters: Dr. Mary Fair Burks". Baltimore Afro-American. December 29, 1979. 
  5. ^ Darryl Lyman, Great African-American Women, Gramercy Books, 1999.

External links[edit]

The photo on this page is NOT Mary Fair Burks. The woman pictured is Thelma Glass.