Happy Birthday, Mahala Ashley Dickerson!
Quaker Pioneer, Civil and Human Rights Lawyer, Philanthropist, Homesteader.
(12 October 1912 - 19 February 2007)
The BlackQuaker Project is proud to celebrate the birthday of groundbreaking Quaker Philanthropist, Civil Rights Lawyer, Human Rights Activist, and Alaska Homesteader, Mahala Ashley Dickerson (12 October 1912 - 19 February 2007). After graduating cum laude from both Fisk University and Howard University School of Law, Dickerson became the first African American woman admitted to the Alabama Bar. Moving to Alaska with her triplet sons in 1958, she became the first African American woman to practice law in the state. Establishing a law practice in Anchorage, she had stunning courtroom victories across a fifty-year career and would have a strong impact on women's rights and civil rights. She encountered discrimination in both her personal and professional life.
Her right to fill out an application to file a homestead claim was first denied outright by the clerk. She was later able to file a successful claim. A very active Quaker, Friend Mahala even donated part of her land to local Quakers despite her later awareness of racial slurs directed at her behind her back by some Quakers who were worshipping and meeting on her property. Although at one point she denied her fellow Quakers access to her property, she reconciled with local Quakers before her death in 2007. So today there is the Dickerson Friends Center near Wasilla, Alaska.
Friend Mahala’s life and achievements raise an important question for us: how do we acquire the courage and strength, knowledge, and skills to confront the cancer of white supremacy and white-supremacy culture at home and worldwide?
To learn more about Friend Mahala Ashley Dickerson and to read her selected works, please see Harold D. Weaver, Jr., “Mahala Ashley Dickerson (1912-2007),” in Weaver, Kriese, and Angell, eds., Black Fire: African American Quakers on Spirituality and Human Rights (Philadelphia: Quaker Press of Friends General Conference, 2011), 179-193.