Mary Walker was enslaved until she was fifteen when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed into law in 1863. At that time, she could neither read nor write, but was still determined to succeed. Through all the ups and downs of life— joy and sorrow, love and hate—she fought her way to achieve her full potential, knowing that had to include literacy freedom. So, in 1963, she enlisted in the Chattanooga Area Literacy Movement (CALM). Two years later, at the age of 117, she finally read her first book.
Mary Walker received many awards and widespread recognition for her endurance and resolve, including “The Key to the City of Chattanooga.” She was also designated Chattanooga, Tennessee’s “Ambassador of Goodwill” twice and was certified as “The Nation’s Oldest Student” by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
At 121, the book of Mary’s life in this world closed—a truly remarkable woman whose memory still inspires many to believe, “You are never too old to learn to read!”
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