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Honoring Christiansburg Civil Rights Icon Nannie Hairston

A woman who fought quietly for justice and equality is being honored this weekend in Christiansburg, Virginia.  

Civil rights icon Nannie Hairston passed away last year at 94. The local NAACP chapter honored her with its first Community Service Award, created in her name.

Nannie Hairston grew up in West Virginia, the oldest of ten children.  Her father worked in the coal fields and her mother ultimately persuaded their small town to build a school in the community instead of bussing them far away before dawn.

Mrs. Hairston took that lesson with her when she moved to Christiansburg in 1953 with her husband and 5 children. She became a founding member of the Montgomery County League of Women Voters and an officer of the NAACP.

“Nan Hairston was a voice of love and not hate and that’s especially needed in the times we’re living in today. One of her mottos was you can’t fight hate with nothing but love.”

Author and historian, Sheree Scarborough is working on an oral history of Hairston.

“There were no marches in Christiansburg, as I understand it from her. There were no sit ins. The way they did it, through the Human Relations Commission in a way that wasn’t controversial to integrate and cause change in the community," Scarborough said. "So they spoke to directly to business owners and, eventually, things changed.”

Scarborough spent six months recording Nannie Hairston.  Her 20 hours of tape will become a book, told in Hairston’s own words.

The Christiansburg Library will hold a program on Saturday August 11 at 2:00 PM titled “The Life and Legacy of Nannie B. Hairston"

Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.
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