She was a pioneer for African American women in the political arena and legendary for her work in the Civil Rights Movement.

In her later years, she championed abortion rights and challenged the misogynistic and violent lyrics in some gangsta rap. From the time she walked onto the battlefield for rights and freedom until she was laid to rest at age 78 in 2005, C. Delores Tucker was a staunch advocate for her people.

Her commitment and hard work were scheduled to be championed May 22 during a tribute at the at the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Silver Spring. The event was hosted by the Bethune-DuBois Institute, a nonprofit she established in 1991 to promote the cultural development of Black children.

In an interview before the dinner, William “Bill” Tucker, widower of the late Tucker, summed her up in one sentence. “My wife was the most fearless woman I knew,” he said.

Born on October 4, 1927, in Philadelphia, Penn., Tucker was raised in a world rife with racial injustice. She learned early in life that protesting for civil and equal rights was necessary in order to break free from oppression.

She was 38 when news broke of attacks made on peaceful protesters at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., during a march on March 7, 1965. Later called Bloody Sunday, the event made international news when protesters were viciously assaulted by police as they took a stand against voter restrictions placed on African Americans.

Tucker felt compelled to make the trip to Alabama to join demonstrators in a second protest, but her husband wasn’t having it.

“It was the only time I told her no,” Bill Tucker said. “I never denied her anything, but if I’d let her go and she were to be harmed, it would be my fault and my life would have been over.”

A group of ministers traveling down for the second protest assured Bill Tucker that if he allowed his wife to go, they would protect her. He agreed and Tucker went on to march side by side with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. two days later, on March 9, again across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Tucker spent her life in the service of people. In 1971, she became the first African American woman to serve as secretary of state, representing Pennsylvania. In 1984, she founded the Bethune-DuBois Institute (BDI), a nonprofit which advocates for the advancement of African Americans in education and leadership development. Tucker also launched and served as publisher for BDI’s quarterly journal, Vital Issues: A Journal of African American Speeches.

In 1990, Tucker, along with fifteen other founders, formed African-American Women for Reproductive Freedom. In 1992, she served as the convening founder and national chair of the National Congress of Black Women.

One of her biggest fights came after she spoke out against the negative messages in some gangsta rap. At a 1994 demonstration outside of a Sam Goody in Northwest Washington, D.C., Tucker spelled out her opposition.

“The music is great. The beat is terrific,” she said. “But let’s stop the pornographic language.”

She even took on the NAACP when the civil rights group nominated rapper Tupac Shakur for its prestigious Image Award for his performance in the film “Poetic Justice.”

Shakur and several other rappers criticized her, but she continued her protests.

During her lifetime, Tucker amassed many accolades. She was named People magazine’s “25 of the World’s Most Intriguing People,” was spotlighted in the first issue of John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s George magazine for her work against negative gangsta rap lyrics and images and was named to Ebony magazine’s “100 Most Influential Black Americans” several times.

She was honored after her death when a building in the Pennsylvania State Capitol complex was named the Secretary C. Delores Tucker Building.


Ariel Medley

AFRO Staff Writers