MIAMI — Miami Dade College (MDC) professor and civil rights activist Renee Kilpatrick and 1940s baseball star Luisa Gallegos represent very different cultures and professions. Yet each has made a distinct mark in history and inspired generations of women who followed in their footsteps. Recently, they were honored at the annual Women’s History Month luncheon at the InterAmerican Campus (IAC). The theme this year was education and empowerment.
Born and raised in Albany, Ga., Prof. Kilpatrick came of age amid segregation and Jim Crow laws in the Deep South. In high school, as the civil rights movement pushed forward, she was part of the first African-American class to integrate an all-white high school. She also took a part-time job at a local grocery store, where she became its first black cashier and at first, patrons refused to go through her lane. Through college, she participated in marches and lunch sit-ins, some of which resulted in jail time.
“It was a harsh time, but it was also a learning time,” Kilpatrick said. “I did not realize at the time that I was making history.”
Prof. Kilpatrick moved to Miami 21 years ago and teaches English at MDC. The “country girl” who dreamed of being a teacher since the first grade said she still cries at every graduation ceremony. “As educators, we are empowered to make a change, not just in the lives of our students, but also the lives of each other,” she said.
Decades earlier, Gallegos was paving the way for women; she is in the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame.
Photo:COURTESY OF MIAMI DADE COLLEGE
RENEE KILPATRICK: ‘I did not realize at the time that I was making history.’