Black History Month
Anna Arnold Hedgeman (July 5, 1899 – January 17, 1990)
She was born Anna Marie Arnold in Marshalltown, Iowa, the daughter and eldest child of William James Arnold II, an entrepreneur, and Marie Ellen Parker Arnold. The Arnolds subsequently moved to Anoka, Minnesota, becoming the only black family in that town. Young Anna graduated from high school in 1918 and went on to attend Hamline University in nearby Saint Paul, becoming the college’s first black graduate in 1922.
When discrimination prevented her from obtaining a teaching job in Minnesota, Anna Arnold accepted a position at Rust College, a historically black college in Holly Springs, Mississippi. She was horrified by the workings of Jim Crow, and after two years she returned north, accepting a job as an executive director of a YWCA in Springfield, Ohio. She worked for the organization for the next several years, at segregated black YWCA branches in Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. While working at the Harlem branch of the YWCA in New York City, she met Merritt Hedgeman, a musician. They married in 1933.
Anna was a Political activist and educator, she was the first African American woman to serve on the cabinet of a New York mayor when she worked during the term of New York City Mayor Robert Wagner from 1957-1958. Her career spanned more than six decades as an advocate for civil rights. In 1963 she helped A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin plan the March on Washington and was the only woman among the key event organizers.