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Alumnae Achievement Awards 1983

Virginia Foster Durr '25
Civil-rights Activist

Virginia Foster Durr, a civil rights activist and author, graduated from Wellesley College in 1925. Raised in a deeply segregated region of Birmingham, Alabama, she credits Wellesley with providing an intellectual and enriching experience. She left Wellesley in 1923 due to financial difficulties and returned to Alabama. After marrying attorney Clifford Durr, she moved to Washington, D.C. and became an active supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation.  

Durr was a founding member of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare, and through that group, she challenged the racial segregation in the South. She also worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to abolish the poll tax that prevented many poor black and white southerners from voting. In 1951, Durr and her husband returned to Alabama and joined the local branch of the NAACP.

The Durrs’ commitment to civil rights caused them to be ostracized by the white community in Birmingham. Durr was accused of being a Communist due to her anti-segregation activities. The Durrs actively supported the Birmingham bus boycott, and they bailed Rosa Parks out of jail when she was arrested in 1955.

Throughout the rest of her life, Durr continued to be active in state and local politics. She spoke at colleges and civil right commemorations, and she was a participant in the PBS television series on the civil rights movement, Eyes on the Prize.

Virginia Foster Durr died at the age of 95 in February 1999.
For more information about the Alumnae Achievement Awards, please contact us by email at specialprograms@alum.wellesley.edu or call the Alumnae Association at 781-283-2331.