Michael Eric Dyson’s Black History Month All Stars

All-Star #11: C. Delores Tucker

Over the last several years in Philadelphia, we have witnessed the erection of the first monument to a Black man in our city, abolitionist Octavius Catto; the first mural to a legal and civic giant, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.; a community effort to rename a street from Taney — named for the Supreme Court justice who wrote the Dred Scott decision — for Caroline LeCount, Philly’s own Rosa Parks; and a school renamed from racist president Andrew Jackson to former slave-turned-educator Fanny Coppin Jackson.

Like these people, to me, the All Stars are the everyday folks who are doing the heavy lifting for their race and culture: Teachers, sanitation workers, people who work the traffic lights and run nurseries — both for kids and for your grass — the people who are clerks in local stores. They are the preachers who reach masses of people on a daily basis; the writers whose praises don’t get as well-sung as they should; the social activists who are out there trying to make a better life for us even when we don’t understand what’s at stake.

These are the people Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., referred to as the “ground crew without whose labor and sacrifices the jet flights to freedom could never have left the earth.”


C. Delores Tucker


C. Delores Tucker



Philadelphia native Cynthia Delores Tucker was a politician and activist for both civil and women’s rights. Daughter of a minister and Christian feminist, Tucker was the 10th of 13 children, and she went on to study at Temple University and Penn’s Wharton School of Business.

Tucker’s activism began when she participated in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches alongside Martin Luther King Jr. In the 1960s, she served as vice president of the Philadelphia branch of the NAACP, and was appointed by President John F. Kennedy to the White House Conference on Civil Rights in 1962. Tucker became the first African-American woman vice chairperson of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party in 1970 and the first Black female Secretary of State the following year. 

In 1990, Tucker formed the African American Women for Reproductive Freedom alongside 15 other Black men and women. She founded and served as the national chair of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. (NCBW). Tucker also famously denounced the misogynistic themes present in rap music.

C. Delores Tucker Accomplishments:

  • Awarded two honorary doctoral degrees from Morris College and California State University Northridge
  • Founder and president of DuBois Institute
  • Helped Pennsylvania pass the Equal Rights Amendment
  • Voted one of 25 World’s Most Interesting People by Times Magazine

Final word: “Never again will black women be disregarded. We will have our share and parity in American politics,” she said.

Reporting by Aly Kerrigan and Ethan Young.

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