By Cillea Houghton
NASHVILLE, TN — Tennessee Tribune Publisher Rosetta Miller Perry has been honored by the Tennessee Human Rights Commission with the 2019 Jocelyn D. Wurzburg Civil Rights Legacy Award.
The award is named after devoted civil rights activist Jocelyn D. Wurzburg of Memphis. Initially appointed to the Tennessee Human Rights Commission in 1971, Wurzburg authored the first anti-discrimination law in the state, known as the Tennessee Human Rights Act, which protects citizens from being discriminated against by employers due to race, color, sex, nationality, disability, age, religion and creed. She also co-founded the Memphis Panel of American Women to help race relations in the city following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Wurzburg was re-appointed to the Tennessee Human Rights Commission in 2007.
During a ceremony at the Tennessee State Capitol, Commissioner Bill Martin referred to Perry as a “soldier” for equal rights, describing her many contributions to fighting for civil rights in the south, such as working alongside King during the sanitation strike in Memphis in 1968 and as part of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the civil rights movement. “She’s been a fighter all of her life for the underserved and for equality,” Martin said.
Perry became a field representative for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1975 and after retiring from a career in government in 1990, she continued to fight for equal rights through the power of journalism, creating Contempora Magazine and The Tennessee Tribune newspaper in 1992 to focus on topics such as equal rights, health, education and voter registration. Martin noted how Perry published the names of African-Americans who were registered to vote in Nashville, but didn’t. “She published them so that they would come out to vote,” he recalled.
In 1998, Perry established the Greater Nashville Black Chamber of Commerce, the same year she launched the Anthony J. Cebrun Journalism Center to aid aspiring young journalists from underprivileged communities. “She’s been doing this for a very long time and she continues to do it today by recording and publishing history,” Martin praised, calling Perry an “inspiration” to the Nashville community, state of Tennessee and country at large. “She’s a multi-talented person, she’s a great publisher, a great civil rights activist and more importantly, she is a great soldier for injustice and for equal rights for everyone.”
In her acceptance speech, Perry called the award “quite an honor,” acknowledging how she and Wurzburg were “in the trenches together” working for civil rights in Memphis. “I feel of all the awards that I have received in my lifetime, this is truly one that I am blessed to receive. She has been the fighter, she was out there fighting when white women couldn’t fight or were afraid to fight in the south. She was just a wonderful person and has always fought for equality for everyone and to me, to receive this award from a wonderful person, it’s unbelievable,” Perry said. “I will always remember this.”