Civil rights leaders and elected officials
Many civil rights leaders and elected officials were present to celebrate the life of Rev. Willie T. Barrow at the Rainbow/Push Coalition headquarters on the South Side of Chicago on March 19. Credit: Photo by William Camargo

Hundreds gathered Thursday at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition headquarters on the South Side to celebrate the life of long-time civil rights leader Rev. Willie Taplin Barrow.

During the nighttime service, civil rights leaders, activists and politicians recalled Barrow’s vibrant personality and activism on behalf of African-Americans and other marginalized people in the United States and around the world.

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel told the standing-room only crowd that the Texas-born Barrow found a place both in history and “in our hearts.”

Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., were among those who spoke fondly of their friendships and civil rights work with Barrow.

Barrow was a field organizer in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and helped form Operation Breadbasket in the 1960s. In 1984, she replaced Rev. Jackson as executive director of Operation PUSH.  She crusaded for human rights in South Africa and the Middle East. Her work earned her the nickname, “the Little Warrior.”

Barrow, who died last week, was 90.

Funeral services are being held today at Vernon Park Church of God in Chicago. Burial will take place Saturday at Oak Woods Cemetery on the South Side.


William is a photojournalism fellow at The Chicago Reporter.

Yuri is an intern for The Chicago Reporter.

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