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Mercer Celebrates Black History Month - Events & More

American history resonates with the names of great African-American men and women. In celebration of Black History Month, Mercer County throughout the month remembers the local African-American pioneers no longer with us but who have left a mark on history.

Edith Mae Savage-Jennings (March 17, 1924 – Nov. 12, 2017) was an American civil rights leader from New Jersey who was known for her association with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She was notable for being a guest to the White House under every U.S. President from Franklin D. Roosevelt through Barack Obama. She was inducted into the New Jersey Woman’s Hall of Fame in 2011.

At age 10, Savage-Jennings met First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt when she was selected to hand the First Lady flowers on behalf of the New Jersey State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs. Although told not to say anything, Savage-Jennings thanked Roosevelt, which led to the two becoming pen pals for the rest of Roosevelt's life.

At the age of 12, she joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and at only 13 years old, Savage-Jennings helped to integrate the Capital Theater in Trenton when she refused to sit in the balcony, which was the designated seating area for black people. Savage-Jennings' first job was in the sheriff's office, where she continued to speak out against discrimination.

In 1957, while Savage-Jennings was raising funds for King's Southern Leadership Conference, she was introduced to Martin Luther King and his wife, Coretta Scott King. Edith and Coretta developed a lifelong friendship, and after Dr. King's death,  Savage-Jennings worked with Coretta to create the King Center.

In 1964, Savage-Jennings and then first lady of New Jersey, Helen Meyner, went on a presidential mission to integrate a school in Mississippi. Savage-Jennings and Meyner met with local women in an effort to convince the locals to allow for the school to be integrated peacefully. Later that same year, she organized the New Jersey Democratic Coalition.

Savage-Jennings was the coordinator of the Mid-Atlantic States Poor People's Campaign of SCLC in 1968. President Jimmy Carter appointed her as a U.S. Delegate at the World Women’s Conference in 1977.

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