Throughout history, there have been many inspirational women who have impacted the fight for social and racial justice. Ruby Nell Sales, an African-American social activist, was born in Jemison, Alabama and raised in segregated Columbus, Georgia. As a child, Sales’ parents often spoke about the inequity of the society they lived in, but Sales did not fight the same way about racial tensions until her late teens when she became aware of the effects on her and others’ lives.
Ruby Nell Sales first attended the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, then the Manhattanville College, and lastly Princeton University where she earned her Ph. D in American History. During her schooling she became a National Council of Church Merit Scholar and a Danforth Scholar. Sales first started to raise her consciousness while she was a student at Tuskegee. She often found her student body president, Gwen Patton, going to different dormitories speaking on behalf of the injustice and racism that existed in the world around them. The role that Gwen Patton had intrigued Sales, as this was the first time she saw a woman exhibit this much authority. Her voice was moving, and her dedication was admirable. While at Tuskegee, Sales met many other people who strongly impacted her curiosity of the Movement.
In 1965, as an act to combat the segregation in her community, Sales and some of her friends picketed a “whites only” corner store. This form of activism landed Sales and her friends in jail for six days. After their release, they stopped by a store and when in line, someone shot at them. The bullet was intended for Sales, but her close friend, Jonathan Daniels, pushed her out of the way and took the bullet that would have ended her life. Daniels died shortly after that, and Sales was traumatized enough to not speak for the following six months.
After Daniels’ death, Sales started an non-profit social activist group called The SpiritHouse Project. Through The SpiritHouse Project, Sales and her subordinates focused on community organizing and spiritually-based community building. Another project that Sales worked on was the Women of All Colors, which focused on building a coalition among women of all colors to work for justice. Currently, she spends time as a social justice and motivational speaker near Washington D.C. for young people, challenging their ideas on social justice.
As a group, we chose to research Ruby Nell Sales because she is an incredible inspiration to aspiring activists, shedding light through her dedication, communication, and headstrong drive. Ruby Nell Sales sheds a light on important issues regarding race and social justice in our country and collectively we felt that there is so much to learn by studying her life. Finding information on her was very difficult, but it made us realize how many unsung heroes there are that we don’t even know about from the Civil Rights Movement. How many more people are out there fighting for the unspoken that we will never hear about?
For more information on Ruby Nell Sales and her activist movements please visit:
- Interview with Ruby Nell Sales – https://www.loc.gov/item/afc2010039_crhp0007/
- Information on the interview https://cdn.loc.gov/service/afc/afc2010039/afc2010039_crhp0007_sales_transcript/afc2010039_crhp0007_sales_transcript.pdf
- The SpiritHouse Project http://www.spirithouseproject.org/aboutruby-extended.php
- Voices of African American Women (https://blogs.loc.gov/folklife/2015/02/african-american-women/)
- Collecting and Protesting the Freedom Struggle (https://www.loc.gov/collections/civil-rights-history-project/articles-and-essays/collecting-and-presenting-the-freedom-struggle-at-the-library-of-congress/)
- School Segregation and Integration (https://www.loc.gov/collections/civil-rights-history-project/articles-and-essays/school-segregation-and-integration/)
- Biography – http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/ruby-nell-sales-39