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Ernestine Henderson McKinney (1906-??)

Leader Against Racial Discrimination

Ernestine Henderson McKinney of Little Rock, Arkansas, was in decision-making leadership positions before, during, and after the history-making unions of the branches of the churches that now make up United Methodism.

She worked for human rights and against racial discrimination when it was not popular to do so, receiving threatening calls and mail as well as hundreds of letters backing her stand. When, in the 1940s, Little Rock, and the South in general, offered no place where the races could meet together, she and a few others asked the Woman’s Division to establish Aldersgate Camp.

Little Rock received national and world attention in 1957 when the governor defied the Supreme Court’s order to desegregate the schools, and the President of the United States sent the National Guard to enforce the law. The governor closed the public schools rather than comply. Ernestine was one of twenty-five women instrumental in reopening the schools—integrated—the next year.

Ernestine was president of Little Rock Conference Woman’s Society from 1954-1956. She was a member of the Woman’s Division, from 1956-1968, serving as vice-president and chair of the Section of Program and Education for Christian Mission, from 1964-1968.

Taken from They Went Out Not Knowing… An Encyclopedia of One Hundred Women in Mission (New York: Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church, 1986). Used with permission of United Methodist Women.

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