Georgia Gilmore, the Alabama cook who fueled the civil rights movement
Georgia Gilmore played a pivotal role in the civil rights movement, nurturing and funding those on the front lines. A wonderful cook, she took it upon herself to bring together a group of secret society women who used food to fuel the movement. Gilmore was strong-willed and willing to speak out against racial injustice, two attributes that served her well when the Montgomery bus boycott began.
Many people rallied to help make the bus boycott a success and ensure that alternative transportation was available to black people, who often used public transportation. Gilmore helped feed those involved in organizing the protests and used the profits she made from the sale of food to pay for insurance, gas and repairs for the hundreds of vehicles that took black workers to and from their workplace. “You don’t hear Miss Gilmore’s name as often as Rosa Parks, but her actions were just as critical,” said Julia Turshen, author of Feeding the resistanceRecount The New York Times in 2019. “She literally fueled the movement. She supported him.
Georgia Gilmore and the “Club From Nowhere”
Gilmore was born in Montgomery, Alabama on February 5, 1920. She worked as a chef in a whites-only cafeteria in downtown Montgomery, as a housekeeper, and as a nurse-midwife. She was also a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She raised six children and was active in the civil rights movement.
His activism cost him his job as a cook at the National Lunch Company. Her employers also blacklisted her, which prevented her from finding other work. Gilmore therefore transformed the kitchen of his house into an informal restaurant where people essential to the movement gathered, whatever their origins. She became a confidante of Martin Luther King Jr., who often held important meetings in her home, and Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy are said to have eaten in her kitchen.
Gilmore also rallied other black women to contribute to the cause, helping them start their own food businesses that raised funds for civil rights. These women came together to form the “Club From Nowhere”, named so white people wouldn’t understand. They presented the money they had raised each week at meetings of boycott participants.
The legacy of Georgia Gilmore
When a Montgomery County grand jury indicted King and dozens of other movement leaders in February 1956, Gilmore was among many domestic workers who testified in their defense. She recounted racist encounters she had experienced while riding public buses.
In her testimony, Gilmore identified the bus driver who once told her to enter a bus through the back door, after paying for her ticket, and sped away before she could. She told the judge, “When I paid for my ticket and they got the money, they don’t distinguish between black money and white money.” The incident had prompted Gilmore to organize his own personal bus boycott months before the Montgomery bus boycott kicked off.
The Montgomery bus boycott lasted over a year, not ending until December 20, 1956, when the Supreme Court ruled that segregation violated the 14th Amendment. But Gilmore’s activism didn’t end with the bus boycott.
She continued to work for the cause until her death on Friday, March 9, 1990, the 25th anniversary of Selma’s march to Montgomery. She was in the kitchen making macaroni and cheese and chicken for the walkers the day she died; his family served this dish to mourners when he visited. In 1995, the Alabama Historical Commission erected a historical marker in front of his home on Dericote Street to mark his legacy. His recipes can still be found in various cookbooks.