By Elmetra Patterson
Winston County Branch NAACP is elated to announce that its member, Claudell Hughes-Weaver, was recipient of the Fannie Lou Hamer Award for her tireless work for equality in the NAACP, AARP, Winston County Democratic Party, Dean Park Commission, Retired Teachers Association and the Winston County Voters League. She held positions in all of the above mentioned organizations until her health begin to deteriorate earlier this year. Fannie Lou Hamer was known for her work in civil rights. She joined the movement in Montgomery County, MS in 1962 and encouraged blacks to register to vote. In 1964, she helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) which was established in opposition to her state’s all-white delegation to that year’s Democratic convention. She bought the civil rights struggle in Mississippi to the attention of the entire nation at a televised press conference even though the MFDP delegates were not seated. For Claudell to receive an award named after Fannie Lou Hamer is an honor.
Claudell is the founder of Juneteenth Day Festival in Winston County via the Winston County Voters’ League. Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. From its Galveston, Texas origin in 1865, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond. It was cancelled for the first time this year in Winston County because of the damages done to Dean Park during the EF4 Tornado that hit Winston County on April 28, 2014. Dean Park is the home of the Juneteenth Festival.
Claudell and her deceased husband, Donald Weaver, moved to Louisville, MS in 1982 from Milwaukee, WI and she immediately became involved in community service, civil rights and advocacy work.
Along with her political activism, Claudell is an educator. Her last employment was as the Administrator of Special Education for the Louisville Municipal School District. Prior to that, she was a special education teacher for home bound students and she taught special education in Milwaukee, WI. Claudell retired but in recent years she home schooled her great granddaughters Jayana and Tiana Mei Jones.
Claudell is the daughter of Mrs. Betsy Ann Hughes-Eichelberger who is the oldest member of the Winston County Branch NAACP. Claudell, like her mother and Fannie Lou Hamer, has been very active in voters’ registration and voters’ education. As members of the AARP, Claudell and her mother spoke before the legislators asking that home health continues to be funded to allow seniors and disabled people to stay home instead of becoming patients at nursing homes.
Florence Young, secretary of Winston County Branch NAACP stated, “I became acquainted with Claudell in the NAACP and found that Claudell was very easy to work with. She was the corresponding secretary until earlier this year. She was a member of Women in the NAACP (WINN)”. WIN is an official committee of the NAACP established to enhance the leadership role of women in the association, to serve as an advocacy vehicle for issues affecting women and children, to advocate for the positive development of children, and to support the ongoing work of the NAACP and its units, especially civil and cultural activities to enhance membership. WINN raises funds for the Annual Back to School Rally in Winston County which supplies over 200 students with school supplies and back packs.
Claudell was presented the Fannie Lou Hamer Award at the Mississippi State Conference NAACP 69th Annual State Convention and Policy Institute which was held on November 6-8, 2014 in Vicksburg, MS. The convention continued the Commemoration of FREEDOM 50 which celebrates the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964. There are in excess of 5,000 MS NAACP members. Claudell’s sister, Janice Hopkins, accepted the award at the convention due to Claudell’s illness.