‘Beautiful’: The story of Hattie Collins, the woman in the pink flower hat

Greg Stevens

SELMA, Ala. (WIAT) — Hattie Howard-Collins remembers it all.

Approximately 60 several years later, she can nevertheless keep in mind the mass conferences at the churches in her hometown of Marion, Alabama. She continue to remembers the police dogs. She remembers Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Previously mentioned all, she remembers the deep enjoy of her parents. She could hardly ever fail to remember.

Howard-Collins said that at initial, “the movement” hadn’t created it to Marion. But when it did, she stated, “we all had to go.”

At 75, she is nonetheless likely. This 12 months, on the initially Sunday in March, Collins stood in the sunshine for hrs, standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands of others in her straw hat – two pink bouquets fixed to the leading – ready to see the very first Black, to start with girl Vice President of the United States talk at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

It was a moment Hattie Howard-Collins by no means thought she’d see.

Normally continue to be together

Hattie Howard-Collins was the fifth of 12 little ones, born to James and Marie Howard, a Black pair who owned and ran a 103-acre farm on the outskirts of Marion.

“He was a farmer,” she reported of her father. “He would have cotton and all the things. Anything at all that went in the ground that would appear up, he had it.”

Her mother and father ended up sweet individuals and early on, they taught their little ones essential lessons in lifestyle. They emphasised the value of acquiring an instruction. They sent Hattie to Lincoln, the very same high college Coretta Scott King experienced attended just a number of yrs before. They taught their young children – seven girls and 5 boys – “how to regard other folks and how you get respect” and focused on “how to be excellent citizens.”

“They just needed us to understand and to know what is right and what is incorrect,” Howard-Collins claimed.

Her mother and father considered that citizenship came with accountability, much too – 1 they urged their children to aid satisfy. Through the early 1960s, the Howards brought their more mature youngsters to mass conferences and demonstrations in Marion and over and above as the fight for civil legal rights achieved a pivotal turning level.

And Hattie Howard-Collins was there for it all.

At Zion in Marion, she was told what to do and what not to do in the function of an attack. Attendees at mass meetings, which includes little ones like Hattie, were geared up for marches and sit-ins by activists properly trained in nonviolent protest.

“Always continue to be jointly,” she was instructed. “And we did that.”

As a child, Howard-Collins didn’t absolutely realize the significance of every thing that was happening all-around her, but she commenced inquiring queries that would shape how she views the earth currently.

“[Dr. King] would be in jail, and it didn’t make perception,” she stated. “What did he do to have earned this?”

Indignities massive and tiny revealed by themselves to Howard-Collins as she grew older, slowly studying the rationale driving her parents’ insistence on combating from injustice. When she was 9 or 10, she sat with other kids in the segregated audience of the community “picture show” in Marion, banished to the balcony by the sting of a “whites only” signal.

“You don’t belong right here,” she reported. “That’s what you’d get from it.”

The little ones fought back against the slight in no matter what way they could.

“We didn’t know any greater. We would get pop or whichever, and when we concluded consuming, we would throw the trash down on them,” she claimed. “We would permit them know – why do we have to be up here and you down there?”

Howard-Collins realized from her mom, although, that restraint, too, was a effective tactic. She claimed that when King came to city, some people would terrible mouth the civil rights leader.

“But my mother wouldn’t say just about anything,” she explained. “She would just act like she did not hear.”

Slowly, Howard-Collins came into her very own, studying the classes her moms and dads had started educating her – classes she occasionally wished she didn’t have to master.

“We did not recognize why things have been like this,” she explained. “Everybody seemed nice. But when night time came, it was a distinct story.”

When night arrived

Howard-Collins is aware of the price tag of advancing civil legal rights in the United States. She and her loved ones have paid it.

Not long immediately after graduating from Lincoln Significant and leaving to go to school in Chicago, her sister, Janet Howard-Moore, stared down Alabama Point out Troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The day was March 7, 1965 — “Bloody Sunday.”

James Howard experienced loaded Janet and two of her siblings into his pickup truck and dropped them off at Brown Chapel. Just like the several mass meetings the spouse and children experienced attended in Marion, preparations started for what would lie forward.

“When we got in the church, they prepped us and instructed us what we were to do and how to do it and what could possibly happen and what could happen,” Howard-Moore recalled.

“They have been organized for the worst,” Vice President Kamala Harris would say 57 years later on. “And on this bridge on that working day the worst uncovered them.”

The foot troopers – Janet Howard among the their ranks – remaining Brown Chapel and walked 3-quarters of a mile to the bridge.

“I seemed up, and I observed the leading of the bridge,” she recollects. “At the incredibly major of the bridge, there were being adult men on horseback.”

She had by no means seen law enforcement well prepared for battle like this. The Alabama State Troopers gripped billy clubs in their palms and wore hard hats on their heads. Fuel masks lined some of their faces.

“As we were being strolling, we read any person on a bullhorn telling us to change all-around and go again,” Howard-Moore claimed.

“We got on our knees to pray as they experienced advised us,” she mentioned. “I do not know how much praying was likely on, but we acquired on our knees.”

Somebody on horseback, she remembered, burst open up a can of tear fuel.

“It was billowing in the air – smoke like you’ve hardly ever found right before,” she said. “I keep in mind trying to protect my nose and eyes.”

She remembered the audio of the metallic horseshoes striking the pavement.

“The sound on the concrete was just immense. The smoke received so thick, and they experienced whips in their arms, and billy clubs,” she reported. “They commenced hitting and beating, and with the smoke, anyone started out functioning backwards.”

The relaxation, for Janet Howard-Moore, is a blur. Some claimed she had been stepped on by a horse, but she’s not positive.

“But in some way I got trampled and I was out, and I woke up in Excellent Samaritan Healthcare facility,” she mentioned.

Give something back

The classes that Hattie and Janet acquired early in their life compensated off.

Of James and Marie’s 12 young children, 10 would go to school. Hattie Howard-Collins experienced desired to go to University in Alabama, but her mother would not have it. Like many Black households at the time, Marie Howard pushed for her daughter to shift north. She inspired her daughter to go to Chicago to pursue her schooling, and that is what Howard-Collins did.

She initially attended Olive-Harvey, just one of Chicago’s town faculties, before transferring to DePaul University to keep on her studies in nursing. Quickly, she was satisfying goals she’d had since she was a few several years old.

“I constantly required to be a nurse to choose treatment of persons,” she explained. “I take pleasure in aiding folks – using treatment of individuals and accomplishing items for them – creating them feel superior.”

Howard-Collins commenced performing in the cancer unit at Mount Sinai Clinic, where by she was speedily acknowledged for her leadership. After only a couple of months on the task, her supervisor still left due to a family emergency, leaving her in charge.

“I’m like… I really do not know what to do,” she explained.

“You can do it,” Howard-Collins recalled her supervisor telling her. “You’re extremely dazzling.”

Her supervisor was appropriate.

It wasn’t prolonged just before Howard-Collins was promoted to turn into the assistant supervisor of the alcoholic beverages and drug device at the medical center. She’d proceed her education, earning two master’s degrees from St. Xavier Faculty.

Eventually, she mentioned, “I worked everywhere you go.”

The individuals Howard-Collins remembers the most have been kids. Youngsters would typically arrive in abused, she reported, with nowhere and no one to transform to. She’d convey to them that they experienced to like on their own and that there is a improved world, even if they could not fairly see it however.

When it was time for discharge, Howard-Collins claimed, the kids often did not want to go away.

“They ended up incredibly, really, incredibly glad to have individuals like myself and other men and women to assist them – to continue to keep them – where by they don’t come to feel that nobody wants you,” she explained.

For 45 yrs, Hattie Howard-Collins nursed people again to health. From the most cancers unit to the alcohol and drugs device – from the dialysis clinic to the children’s wing, she assisted each and every individual she could. She would become the director of nursing. She began her personal youth team, counseling young children and teaching them the lessons her mothers and fathers had taught her. She taught other nurses the craft of caring.

Finally, right after many years of devoted function, she was termed to serve her individual family members yet again, having obligation for her mother and father toward the close of their lives.

But she is very clear – she’s never ever retired.

“I just stopped functioning for a minute or so,” she said. “They preserve telling me ‘you have to have to appear again.’”

‘The spirit of Selma’

On Sunday in Selma, I did not know Hattie Collins’ story.

I was in the town with CBS 42’s Nicole Cook to deal with the annual commemoration of the day Janet Howard-Moore remembers all also nicely.

I stood waiting around for Vice President Harris to speak, having a photograph of a Black female that was there on Sunday, at that bridge, to bear witness to historical past.

Since on that hot Sunday early morning, Hattie Collins stood out in a crowd of thousands.

The Black woman wore a denim jacket with an orange shirt underneath. She wore a straw hat with two pink bouquets fixed on the top.

In the noisy crowd, it was difficult to hear her communicate, but I could notify she desired my attention. She did not yell or wave me down. She seemed me straight in the eyes. I could not glimpse absent.

She questioned if I could get her image with my camera. She wanted to be noticed — to be remembered on this vital day.

I took the image.

But in the din of the crowd, as a lot more and far more onlookers pushed among us, I lost observe of her. She had by now been as well far away to listen to perfectly, but I hoped to preserve an eye on her and converse to her right after the Vice President’s speech. I wasn’t so fortunate.

On Thursday night time, I posted her image on Twitter, inquiring visitors to retweet the impression in the hopes of locating this mystery female and giving her with a copy of her photograph.

By Friday, the picture experienced been shared in excess of 12,000 occasions. Above a million persons experienced previously observed the photograph. Lots of people today speedily grew to become invested in encouraging to obtain “the lady in the pink flower hat.”

“Beautiful,” Maya Harris, the Vice President’s sister, replied to the picture.

‘This is just beautiful’

It took a lot less than a day to recognize Hattie Howard-Collins.

Her grandson, Ross Walker, a sophomore at Auburn College, was scrolling through Twitter on Friday early morning when he came throughout the image of his grandmother. He was shocked. He despatched the image to family customers.

“Are you observing what I’m viewing?” He questioned. They were being.

Walker reached out to me on Twitter, and we immediately connected.

“Thank you,” Walker replied to Maya Harris. “My nana is the most generous particular person I know.”

When her family members users received in contact with her and explained the viral picture, Hattie Collins wished to know who experienced taken the photograph.

Her grandson stated, indicating he assumed it was a reporter from CBS.

“That is my buddy,” Howard-Collins instructed him.

When I 1st spoke to Hattie Howard-Collins, she explained she was “elated” that her trek to Selma for Jubilee was being celebrated throughout the place.

“This is just lovely,” she said. “I would like to fulfill Maya and Kamala Harris.”

Howard-Collins said that she goes to Selma as often as she can to commemorate Jubilee. This yr, Janet was there, much too.

“It’s quite essential for people to make the journey to Selma,” Howard-Collins stated. “It’s a aspect of my heritage, and it is a portion of everyone’s background, regardless of whether they like it or not.”

Howard-Collins claimed that it was notably crucial that she make it to Selma to see Vice President Harris converse. She had in no way anticipated to see a Black particular person provide just one of the nation’s optimum workplaces.

But on a Sunday in Selma, she viewed on as Harris recalled the heritage that Howard-Collins’ spouse and children lived as a result of, one particular working day at a time.

In spite of the blistering warmth, the cramped house, and the several hours-very long wait around to see Harris converse, Hattie Howard-Collins claimed she’d do it all once more. For her, record was built that day.

“Now everybody has a position design,” she stated. “Not just the white male is capable to say to their little one, ‘You know what? We’re the president.’ Black families can do that as well.”

In the stop, possessing shared her story, Howard-Collins, as Vice President Harris did in her speech on Sunday, had summoned “the spirit of Selma.”

“We are their legacy,” the Vice President explained at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. “The legacy of all those who are with us nowadays.”

Hattie Howard-Collins, the lady in the pink flower hat, was glad to be amid them.

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