What is: 407 Ashton Street, Clarksdale, Mississippi
What was: Vera Mae Pigee’s Beauty Salon was opened in 1955 and became more than a successful business. Because it was a successful business that didn’t depend on the white community, she was able to be an activist and keep her job. Her Salon was a safe space for civil rights organizing activities; it was a shelter; it was a classroom where literacy was taught to local residents, as part of an effort to increase African American voter registration; and it was a place for local food and clothing drives.
Vera Mae Pigee was a significant civil rights organizer and activist. In 1959, she helped lead a demonstration at the Illinois Central train terminal where 3 students tried to purchase train tickets from the “white” side of the counter. They were all arrested when the police arrived. In December 1961, when Pigee and her daughter entered the whites-only bus terminal waiting area, they were harassed by the Clarksdale police. They filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department, the Interstate Commerce Commission, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The incident sparked additional protests against the bus terminal and the police department. Those protests forced the Greyhound terminal to end its segregation policy on December 27, 1961. Ben C. Collins, the Clarksdale chief of police, called her “the most aggressive leader of the NAACP in Clarksdale.
In the 1970s, Vera Mae Pigee moved to Detroit, Michigan, where she studied sociology and journalism at Wayne State University. On December 14, 1985, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities from Urban Bible College of Detroit, in recognition of her work in the field of civil rights. She later became an ordained Baptist minister and continued working with the NAACP. Dr. Vera Mae Pigee passed away in Detroit on September 18, 2007, at the age of 83. Source: https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/people-african-american-history/vera-pigee-1924-2007/
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