Previously named one of the Outstanding Women of Clinton County, the late Mary Hackney has now been inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame as an activist.
Hackney was honored for her work in education desegregation, specifically as an unpaid alternative teacher for the “Marching Mothers and Children of Hillsboro.”
In 1954, African-American families of students attending Hillsboro’s Lincoln School — a school for black elementary students only — began efforts to end school segregation in the city. Upon hearing of the protests Hackney, along with several other Quaker teachers, volunteered to tutor and provide lesson plans when African-American children were denied access to an all-white school.
In its profile of Hackney, the Hall of Fame program states, “Despite intimidation and threats to her family, she continued to educate the protesting students until the district was finally desegregated.” This alternative schooling for African-Americans in the Hillsboro area in the mid-1950s was informally called “Freedom School.”
In 2017, the New Hope Baptist Church recognized Hackney posthumously with a plaque presented to her family. It stated in part: “While marching mothers fought for desegregation, the [alternative] teachers did the best they could for the students despite not having all the books and supplies they needed to teach nor having a quality classroom.”
At the Oct. 10 Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Ohio Statehouse atrium, Jim Hackney, her eldest son, accepted the engraved glass award and gave a few remarks.
Jim Hackney stated his mother would point out that the other volunteer teachers should be mentioned, too, and “of course, the real heroes of this story are all the brave mothers and children that marched in Hillsboro.”
He added, “My mother was one piece to the story that linked a grassroots effort that challenged the status quo and enforced education equality of historic cases such as Brown vs. Board of Education [of Topeka].”
Jim Hackney said he’s glad Ohio is one of the states that has a Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
“In the last few years, unfortunately, we have seen an increase in racial tensions including too many very violent acts. Hopefully, by honoring those who promote civil rights, these acts will decrease,” he said.
Mary Hackney taught in the Clinton County area at Mount Pleasant School, Kingman School, and Harveysburg School. She was a member of Chester Friends Meeting (Quakers) in Chester Township, Clinton County.
Hackney died in 2008 at the age of 93.
In addition to the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame glass plaque, the Ohio Senate, the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Secretary of State awarded certificates that were presented during the Hall of Fame ceremony to the Hackney family.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.