A day before Congresswoman Alma Adams honored Sarah Mingo Stevenson with a speech from the House floor, Mecklenburg County leaders officially recognized the pioneer and civil rights activist for her community impact.
During the Sept. 15 Board of County Commissioners meeting, Chairman George Dunlap presented a proclamation declaring the day as “Ms. Sarah Mingo Stevenson Day” for her 50-plus years of service to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community. The group unanimously approved the resolution, with many recalling their connections with Stevenson.
She holds the title of several firsts in Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s history. In 1970, Stevenson became the first Black president of the district’s integrated PTA and was a leader in the push to desegregate Charlotte schools. A decade later, she was elected to the local school board, the first Black woman to serve in the role. She also co-founded the Tuesday Morning Breakfast forum in 1980 as a place for Black residents to voice concerns and learn about political and social matters. It became an important stop for anyone wanting to connect with Charlotte’s growing Black community.
“This is a Black woman who struggled years ago during the civil rights movement during the period of high segregation across this country but was able to rise above it because of her strength and her faith,” District 2 Commissioner Vilma Leake said, “and because of her desire in life to make things a little bit better for people that are Black.”
In addition to the praise, Leake said it saddened her that Stevenson — now almost 95 years old — hadn’t been honored sooner.
“It’s a long history with that young lady, and I’m sorry that no one recognized her with the service that she has rendered to this community,” said Leake, who confirmed with the county clerk that Stevenson hadn’t previously been honored with a proclamation. [Note: In 2017, Gov. Roy Cooper presented her with a proclamation on behalf of the state.]
Leake added, “So thank you to this board in considering to recognize a great woman who gave and is still giving.”
Stevenson’s sister, Elloree Erwin called into the meeting to accept the honor on her sister’s behalf. The loving words made her emotional and overwhelmed with joy, she said. Erwin shared that her sister wasn’t able to call in due to not having a phone in her room at her assisted living facility, but nurses set up a TV for Stevenson to watch the presentation.
“I know she is smiling and probably shedding a few tears,” Erwin said.
Tommie Robinson, Stevenson’s friend of nearly 50 years and fellow community activist, said she is one of the strongest women he knows and deserving of the proclamation.
“She never assumed to be a leader, but she was there for the people. It was never about the limelight for her,” the 73-year-old award-winning artist told QCity Metro following the meeting. “I learned from her that if you want to bring about change, you had to work and speak up for it.”