MacArthur Fellows Program

Unita Blackwell

Mayor and Civil Rights Leader | Class of 1992

Mayor and Civil Rights Leader
Mayersville, Mississippi
59 at time of award
May 13, 2019
Published July 1, 1992

About Unita's Work

Unita Blackwell is the former mayor of Mayersville, Mississippi.

The first black woman to be elected mayor in Mississippi (1977-2001), Blackwell was president of the National Conference of Black Mayors for two terms (1990-92), and the first woman to hold the post.  Blackwell, who grew up among sharecroppers in Lula, Mississippi, was active in the civil rights movement.  She led the fight to incorporate Mayersville and to raise money for such basic services as water, sewerage, and housing.  She co-chairs the Issaquena County Mississippi River Port Commission.  Blackwell has extended her interest in rural community development through activity in the National Council of Negro Women, the Mississippi Action for Community Education, the Delta Foundation, and the U.S./China People’s Friendship Association.


Blackwell was a fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government (1991-92).  She was a delegate to the Non-Government Organizations Forum held in Beijing in conjunction with the 1995 International Conference on Women.

Blackwell received an M.A. (1983) from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Last updated January 1, 2005

Select News Coverage of Unita Blackwell
June 13, 2014
"From Sharecropper to Presidential Adviser"
Clarion Ledger
Unita Blackwell , 1992 MacArthur Fellow
May 7, 2008
"Civil Rights Leader Looks Back"
Unita Blackwell , 1992 MacArthur Fellow
June 17, 1992
"A Mayor and Town Rise Jointly"
The New York Times
Unita Blackwell , 1992 MacArthur Fellow
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