During the 1960’s, civil rights “champion” Edith Mae Savage-Jennings was a prominent force in New Jersey’s equal rights movement. She proved that perseverance and determination can be a powerful force for change.
Born in Jacksonville, Florida on March 17th, 1924, Savage-Jennings was one of six children. Unfortunately, when she was just two years old, both of her parents passed away. Following the tragedy, Savage-Jennings and her siblings were sent to live with their aunt and, shortly after that, the family moved to New Jersey.
After spending some time in their new surroundings, Savage-Jennings started to display a burning passion for activism. In the year 1930, at the age of 11, Savage-Jennings had the opportunity to meet the First Lady (who at the time was Eleanor Roosevelt) thanks to the New Jersey State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. It was here where Savage-Jennings had personally thanked the First Lady for being an ally of civil rights movement, and from that day on both women remained extremely close friends until Roosevelt passed away in 1962.
By the age of 13 Savage-Jennings was already a major force in the fight to integrate the Capital Theater in Trenton. Throughout her life she had always been afraid of heights and, because of this, she would not sit on the balcony of the segregated theater. Rather, she insisted on sitting in the second row and refused to move throughout the duration of the show despite numerous requests from theater staff.
In 1957 Savage-Jennings has the opportunity to meet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who for the next 11 years, would remain an extremely close friend of hers. Dr. King usually called on Savage-Jennings to elicit her opinion on various topics and subjects he was dealing with at the time. According to bestofnj.com “On the morning of the day he was assassinated, King asked Savage-Jennings to remain close with his wife in case anything ever happened to him.”
Involved in numerous organizations, including The NAACP, National Urban League, Urban League Guild of Metropolitan Trenton and League’s Young People for Progress, Savage-Jennings was a true pioneer for civil rights, equality and freedom for all people regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity or religion.
Over the course of her life, Savage-Jennings earned over 100 awards for her important work fighting for civil rights and was inducted into the New Jersey Women’s Hall of Fame in 2011. She passed away on November 12, 2017, but her legacy continues to live on. Recently, the City of Trenton declared February 19th as Edith Savage-Jennings Day, permanently cementing her life’s work in the city that she fought in.