Alumnae in Civic & Social Engagement

Clark Atlanta University (CAU) celebrates the accomplishments of the phenomenal alumnae of our past, present and future. Here are some famous and influential alumnae of CAU and our predecessor institutions, Atlanta University (1865) and Clark College (1869). These trailblazers have championed our communities in civic and social engagement:


Annie Lou McPheeters
Librarian, Civil Rights Activist
Clark College, 1929

In 1929 McPheeters earned her B.A. degree in English from Clark College, with a minor in education. In 1936 she was promoted to full librarian, becoming one of the first African American professional librarians in the Atlanta Public Library. McPheeters successfully helped desegregate libraries in Atlanta in 1959. She began the Negro History Collection at the Auburn Carnegie Library, and helped create educational programs for Atlanta Public Libraries, including the Adult Education Project (AEP), which was sponsored by the American Association of Adult Education, the American Library Association, and the Julius Rosenwald Fund. McPheeters-Dennis Hall on CAU campus is named in her honor.




Evelyn G. Lowery, Clark College [1946]
Civil Rights activist

Evelyn Gibson Lowery served as an early proponent of the Civil Rights Movement alongside her husband, Reverend Joseph E. Lowery. Lowery graduated from Clark College with her degree in social work in 1947. In 1979, Evelyn Lowery founded the SCLC's sister organization--SCLC/Women's Organizational Movement for Equality Now Inc. (SCLC/W.O.M.E.N.)

Lowery continuously championed STEM initiatives and empowerment for girls and women: She founded the Women's Empowerment Training Center for GED/computer training in 1988 and the Bridging the Gap mentoring program for girls in 1995. In the 1980s, Lowery founded a number of public initiatives to commemorate past struggles and honor present fights for human rights, including the Drum Major for Justice Award, the Evelyn Lowery Civil Rights Heritage Tour, & the Civil Rights Freedom Wall in Perry County, Alabama. In 2004, Lowery was inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.






Marva Collins (1936-2015), Clark College [1957]
Activist, Educator, founder, Westside Preparatory School, Chicago IL

Collins graduated from Clark College with her B.A. in 1957. She founded Westside Preparatory School in West Garfield Park, Chicago, IL in 1975. Westside Prep was created to educate low income black children who had been failed by the large public school systems, especially those who'd been diagnosed with learning disabilities.

Due to the success of the Collins teaching methods, President Ronald Reagan wanted to nominate Collins to become the U.S. Secretary of Education, but Collins took herself out of the running for the position. In 2004, Collins received a National Humanities Medal, among many awards for her teaching and efforts at school reform.





Delores P. Aldridge
Sociologist, Social Worker, Activist and Educator
Clark College, 1963 | Atlanta University, 1966

Dr. Aldridge earned her B.A. in sociology and psychology from Clark College in 1963 and her MSW in social work from Atlanta University in 1966. In the 1960s, she developed social services for the first comprehensive mental health center at a general hospital in the U.S. Dr. Aldridge was the first African American woman faculty member at Emory University, where she founded and directed the first Black Studies degree granting program in the South in 1971. As a Merrill postgraduate fellow at the University of Ireland-Dublin, she initiated programs and training institutes in mental health across the country.






Carolyn Long Banks, Clark College [1962]
Activist, 1st Black Councilwoman, City of Atlanta 

In the spring of 1960, Banks joined the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights, working directly with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the committee to create a “manifesto” outlining problems facing the Black community. Banks participated in lunch counter sit-ins and helped desegregate the Rich’s department store in Atlanta, becoming its first Black buyer. Banks graduated with her B.A. in English from Clark College in 1962.

In November 1980, she became the first African-American woman on the Atlanta City Council and served the City of Atlanta for 17 years. As councilwoman-at-large, Banks established and chaired the City of Atlanta’s first Disabled Persons Taskforce, introduced and passed the ban on the AK-47 assault rifles; wrote the legislation and executed the contracts for Hawks Arena, the Olympics, and the airport; sponsored zoning legislation to limiting development density in neighborhoods. Banks has served on numerous leadership positions, including president of the National League of Cities.




Mamie E. Locke
1st African American Woman
Mayor, City of Hampton, VA.
Atlanta University, 1978

Locke earned her M.A.  and her Ph. D. in advanced political science from Atlanta University. Prior to higher education, Dr. Locke worked as an archivist with the Mississippi State Department of Archives and History and the Atlanta History Center. A Democrat, Locke served as a member of the Hampton, Virginia city council from 1996–2004, and was elected the first African-American woman mayor of the City of Hampton, 2000–2004. Since 2004, she has continued to serve as a member of the Senate of Virginia, 2nd district and is currently a member of the Education and Health, General Laws and Technology, Rehabilitation and Technology, and Rules Committees. Locke is also a Professor of Political Science and the Dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Hampton University. She is the recipient of several awards and honors, including the Library of Virginia and Dominion Resources Strong Men and Strong Women of Virginia, Diane Blair Award for Outstanding Achievement in Politics and Government from the Southern Political Science Association, and the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, Hampton University.






Marilyn Strickland
1st African American Woman
Mayor, City of Tacoma, WA.
Clark Atlanta University, 1992

Strickland was born in Seoul, graduated from the University of Washington and earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Clark Atlanta University.  Strickland held management positions with JayRay Communications, Starbucks Coffee Company and the American Cancer Society before serving on the Tacoma City Council. Strickland won election as mayor of the City of Tacoma, Washington in 2010 and served for eight years, leading on issues of regional transportation, education and economic development. She now serves as the President and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.