The story of Hattie Collins, the woman in the pink flower hat

Greg Stevens

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

Almost 60 a long time afterwards, she can nonetheless bear in mind the mass conferences at the church buildings in her hometown of Marion, Alabama. She still remembers the law enforcement dogs. She remembers Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Over all, she remembers the deep like of her parents. She could in no way forget.

Howard-Collins claimed that at to start with, “the movement” hadn’t manufactured it to Marion. But when it did, she claimed, “we all had to go.”

At 75, she is still heading. This calendar year, on the to start with Sunday in March, Collins stood in the sunshine for hours, standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands of others in her straw hat – two pink bouquets fastened to the top rated – waiting around to see the very first Black, 1st woman Vice President of the United States discuss at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

It was a second Hattie Howard-Collins under no circumstances imagined she’d see.

Always keep alongside one another

Hattie Howard-Collins was the fifth of 12 kids, 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 claimed of her father. “He would have cotton and all the things. Anything at all that went in the floor that would come up, he experienced it.”

Her dad and mom ended up sweet men and women and early on, they taught their kids important lessons in life. They emphasised the relevance of receiving an training. They despatched Hattie to Lincoln, the identical high college Coretta Scott King experienced attended just a couple many years right before. They taught their children – seven women and five boys – “how to respect other people and how you get respect” and focused on “how to be fantastic citizens.”

“They just desired us to discover and to know what is appropriate and what is erroneous,” Howard-Collins claimed.

Her mother and father considered that citizenship came with duty, way too – 1 they urged their kids to aid satisfy. Through the early 1960s, the Howards brought their more mature youngsters to mass meetings and demonstrations in Marion and beyond as the combat for civil legal rights arrived at a pivotal turning level.

And Hattie Howard-Collins was there for it all.

At Zion in Marion, she was explained to what to do and what not to do in the celebration of an assault. Attendees at mass conferences, which include young children like Hattie, ended up geared up for marches and sit-ins by activists qualified in nonviolent protest.

“Always keep alongside one another,” she was advised. “And we did that.”

As a baby, Howard-Collins didn’t absolutely recognize the importance of anything that was taking place all around her, but she began asking questions that would condition how she sights the entire world currently.

“[Dr. King] would be in jail, and it didn’t make sense,” she said. “What did he do to deserve this?”

Indignities large and compact exposed by themselves to Howard-Collins as she grew more mature, gradually mastering the purpose guiding her parents’ insistence on combating in opposition to injustice. When she was 9 or 10, she sat with other children in the segregated audience of the area “picture show” in Marion, banished to the balcony by the sting of a “whites only” indicator.

“You never belong right here,” she reported. “That’s what you’d get from it.”

The children fought back from the slight in what ever way they could.

“We didn’t know any better. We would get pop or what ever, and when we finished drinking, we would toss the trash down on them,” she claimed. “We would allow them know – why do we have to be up in this article and you down there?”

Howard-Collins uncovered from her mother, although, that restraint, way too, was a powerful tactic. She said that when King arrived to town, some folks would lousy mouth the civil rights leader.

“But my mom would not say anything at all,” she reported. “She would just act like she did not hear.”

Gradually, Howard-Collins came into her possess, mastering the classes her moms and dads had begun training her – lessons she sometimes wished she did not have to grasp.

“We didn’t fully grasp why points had been like this,” she explained. “Everybody appeared great. But when evening came, it was a different tale.”

When night came

Howard-Collins understands the price tag of advancing civil legal rights in the United States. She and her family members have paid out it.

Not long just after graduating from Lincoln High and leaving to go to college 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 had loaded Janet and two of her siblings into his pickup truck and dropped them off at Brown Chapel. Just like the lots of mass conferences the family had attended in Marion, preparations started for what would lie in advance.

“When we acquired in the church, they prepped us and informed us what we have been to do and how to do it and what may possibly take place and what could happen,” Howard-Moore recalled.

“They have been well prepared for the worst,” Vice President Kamala Harris would say 57 yrs afterwards. “And on this bridge on that day the worst uncovered them.”

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

“I appeared up, and I noticed the prime of the bridge,” she remembers. “At the pretty best of the bridge, there ended up adult males on horseback.”

She had by no means found law enforcement prepared for fight like this. The Alabama State Troopers gripped billy clubs in their fingers and wore tough hats on their heads. Fuel masks coated some of their faces.

“As we were being strolling, we read anyone on a bullhorn telling us to convert all around and go back,” Howard-Moore reported.

“We received on our knees to pray as they had explained to us,” she mentioned. “I never know how substantially praying was likely on, but we got on our knees.”

Someone on horseback, she remembered, burst open a can of tear gasoline.

“It was billowing in the air – smoke like you have in no way found right before,” she claimed. “I don’t forget seeking to address my nose and eyes.”

She remembered the audio of the steel horseshoes putting the pavement.

“The sound on the concrete was just huge. The smoke received so thick, and they experienced whips in their arms, and billy clubs,” she claimed. “They started off hitting and beating, and with the smoke, absolutely everyone started managing backwards.”

The rest, for Janet Howard-Moore, is a blur. Some claimed she experienced been stepped on by a horse, but she’s not guaranteed.

“But by some means I got trampled and I was out, and I woke up in Good Samaritan Clinic,” she stated.

Give anything back

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

Of James and Marie’s 12 children, 10 would show up at university. Hattie Howard-Collins had preferred to go to College in Alabama, but her mom would not have it. Like numerous Black family members at the time, Marie Howard pushed for her daughter to go north. She inspired her daughter to go to Chicago to pursue her education, and which is what Howard-Collins did.

She to start with attended Olive-Harvey, 1 of Chicago’s city faculties, just before transferring to DePaul University to proceed her experiments in nursing. Soon, she was satisfying dreams she’d experienced considering the fact that she was 3 yrs aged.

“I usually required to be a nurse to take care of folks,” she claimed. “I appreciate supporting people today – having care of men and women and accomplishing matters for them – building them come to feel superior.”

Howard-Collins commenced working in the most cancers unit at Mount Sinai Medical center, in which she was swiftly identified for her management. Immediately after only a couple of months on the career, her supervisor remaining thanks to a family members unexpected emergency, leaving her in cost.

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

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

Her supervisor was ideal.

It wasn’t prolonged just before Howard-Collins was promoted to become the assistant manager of the liquor and drug device at the healthcare facility. She’d proceed her schooling, earning two master’s degrees from St. Xavier College or university.

Sooner or later, she mentioned, “I labored just about everywhere.”

The patients Howard-Collins remembers the most have been young ones. Youngsters would often occur in abused, she mentioned, with nowhere and no one to turn to. She’d inform them that they had to really like them selves and that there is a better entire world, even if they could not very see it however.

When it was time for discharge, Howard-Collins stated, the little ones usually did not want to leave.

“They had been pretty, quite, incredibly glad to have men and women like myself and other people to aid them – to continue to keep them – in which they do not experience that nobody wants you,” she mentioned.

For 45 a long time, Hattie Howard-Collins nursed people back again to health and fitness. From the most cancers unit to the liquor and medicines unit – from the dialysis clinic to the children’s wing, she helped every single particular person she could. She would turn into the director of nursing. She commenced her have youth team, counseling kids and instructing them the lessons her moms and dads had taught her. She taught other nurses the craft of caring.

At some point, immediately after a long time of devoted get the job done, she was called to provide her personal loved ones all over again, getting responsibility for her mothers and fathers toward the finish of their lives.

But she is obvious – she’s under no circumstances retired.

“I just stopped functioning for a moment or so,” she mentioned. “They hold telling me ‘you require to come back again.’”

‘The spirit of Selma’

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

I was in the city with CBS 42’s Nicole Prepare dinner to go over the once-a-year commemoration of the day Janet Howard-Moore remembers all far too nicely.

I stood waiting for Vice President Harris to talk, getting a photograph of a Black girl that was there on Sunday, at that bridge, to bear witness to historical past.

For the reason that on that very hot Sunday morning, Hattie Collins stood out in a group of hundreds.

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

In the noisy group, it was challenging to hear her speak, but I could convey to she needed my focus. She didn’t yell or wave me down. She appeared me straight in the eyes. I couldn’t seem away.

She questioned if I could just take her photo with my digicam. She wished to be viewed — to be remembered on this crucial day.

I took the image.

But in the din of the group, as more and far more onlookers pushed amongst us, I misplaced track of her. She had now been too considerably absent to hear perfectly, but I hoped to preserve an eye on her and discuss to her immediately after the Vice President’s speech. I wasn’t so fortunate.

On Thursday night time, I posted her photo on Twitter, inquiring visitors to retweet the picture in the hopes of obtaining this secret woman and supplying her with a copy of her image.

By Friday, the image experienced been shared above 12,000 situations. Over a million people today experienced currently viewed the photograph. A lot of people today quickly turned invested in aiding to uncover “the girl in the pink flower hat.”

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

‘This is just beautiful’

It took fewer than a day to identify Hattie Howard-Collins.

Her grandson, Ross Walker, a sophomore at Auburn University, was scrolling via Twitter on Friday morning when he came throughout the photograph of his grandmother. He was stunned. He sent the photo to loved ones customers.

“Are you looking at what I’m viewing?” He requested. They have been.

Walker achieved out to me on Twitter, and we speedily related.

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

When her family members bought in touch with her and stated the viral picture, Hattie Collins required to know who experienced taken the photograph.

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

“That is my close friend,” Howard-Collins explained to him.

When I first spoke to Hattie Howard-Collins, she said she was “elated” that her trek to Selma for Jubilee was getting celebrated throughout the region.

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

Howard-Collins claimed that she goes to Selma as typically as she can to commemorate Jubilee. This 12 months, Janet was there, much too.

“It’s pretty essential for men and women to make the journey to Selma,” Howard-Collins claimed. “It’s a part of my history, and it’s a part of everyone’s heritage, irrespective of whether they like it or not.”

Howard-Collins said that it was specially crucial that she make it to Selma to see Vice President Harris converse. She had under no circumstances expected to see a Black person serve one particular of the nation’s greatest places of work.

But on a Sunday in Selma, she watched on as Harris recalled the background that Howard-Collins’ family lived by means of, one day at a time.

Even with the blistering warmth, the cramped space, and the hours-lengthy wait to see Harris talk, Hattie Howard-Collins explained she’d do it all once more. For her, history was made that day.

“Now every person has a role model,” she stated. “Not just the white dude is ready to say to their baby, ‘You know what? We’re the president.’ Black families can do that much too.”

In the finish, obtaining shared her tale, 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 reported at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. “The legacy of those people who are with us currently.”

Hattie Howard-Collins, the woman in the pink flower hat, was happy to be between them.

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