Home of Georgia Gilmore
This historical marker is located at the former home of civil rights activists and Montgomery Bus Boycott leader Georgia Gilmore. Gilmore not only used her voice but also her culinary skills to aid the civil rights movement in Montgomery. During the time of boycott, Georgia Gilmore opened her home and also sold pastries to raise funds to support the effort to provide alternative transportation for boycotters during the long protest against the segregated city bus system. Gilmore was also on the front line of the movement and arrested along with other local civil rights supporters. Reflecting the gendered division of labor that would inspire future female leaders to push for equal rights and leadership roles for women, Gilmore is best known for opening her home and hosting numerous activists leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King and Dr. Ralph Abernathy. In addition to using her culinary skills to raise money, she was an active leader in the city for the remainder of her life.
Backstory and Context
Georgia Gilmore was born in 1920 and worked as a midwife in addition to her roles as wife and mother. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the Montgomery, Gilmore was an active supporter and organizer that led to the decision to boycott the buses. Although best known for raising funds through her culinary skills, she also endured arrest and even testified in court on behalf of Dr. Martin Luther King.
Like many other residents, Gilmore was later fired from her job for participating in the boycott. She responded by starting a restaurant in her home that became a meeting place for civil rights leaders. Ms. Gilmore had previously fed Dr. King and others during the civil rights movement. Due to the boycott of the bus system all had to organize other transportation, which required substantial funds.
Gilmore responded by creating a secret club that supplied food and a meeting place for black and white organizers known as the “Club from Nowhere.” The success of the club was so great that another group of supporters led by Inez Ricks created a rival organization called “The Friendly Club.” The two groups worked for the same cause and helped motivate each other by having a friendly rivalyey to see who could raise more funds.
During this time Gilmore and her fellow members provided food the Memphis Improvement Association and boycott participants. The funds from this club helped to pay for the continued activists’ movements, the MIA, and the fuel for alternative transportation, insurance, maintenance, and to keep Ms. Gilmore financially afloat too. Therefore continually pouring the monies back into the movement, as John T. Edge recounts in his book which is linked below.
The club was an organization of maids, service workers, and cooks seeking to aid the boycott. The name was an attempt to shield members from the consequences of openly supporting the boycott. Only Gilmore knew who made and bought the food and who donated money. The underground network of cooks went door-to-door selling sandwiches, pies, and cakes, and collecting donations. The proceeds were then turned over to boycott leaders. Donations came from whites as well as blacks. The kitchen was basically an underground supplier that was able to go out and sell their foods and pastries without any idea that the money supported the boycott.
Georgia Gilmore continued to serve as an activist in civil rights for the remainder of her life. On the morning of her death, she was preparing food to be served to those marching in observation of the 25th anniversary of the civil rights march from Selma. Her family served her recipes to those who came to mourn her passing
Nadasen, Premilla, Georgia Gilmore, Overlooked Activists of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, (2016) Beacon Brookside