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Willie Barrow


Willie Barrow Facts:

Known for: civil rights activism, active role in the Church of God, Operation PUSH leadership, campaign manager for presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson
Dates: December 7, 1924 -
Occupation: minister
Also known as: Rev. Willie Barrow, Willie B. Barrow, Willie T. Barrow, Willie B. Taplin Barrow, "Little Warrior," "Princess of Protest"

Willie Barrow Biography:


Willie Barrow was raised in rural Texas on a farm with her six siblings. Her father was a local pastor. She was called to ministry when she was sixteen. While studying ministry in Portland, Oregon, she organized the first African American Church of God. She was also a welder in a shipyard, where she met Clyde Barrow, whom she married, and where she became involved in the labor movement.


From Portland, Clyde and Willie Barrow moved to Chicago in 1943, where she studied at the Moody Bible Institute and the Central Conservatory of Music, in addition to her work with the Church of God. In the 1950s she became active in the civil rights movement, working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a field organizer for marches and demonstrations.

Operation Breadbasket, Operation PUSH and Jesse Jackson:


Willie Barrow helped found Operation Breadbasket in Chicago, which grew into Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity, later People United to Serve Humanity). Barrow was a key "lieutenant" of Jesse Jackson in his Chicago-based activism. They worked on many projects and in many organizations together, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and a long association with Operation PUSH. When Jackson ran for president for the 1984 election, she served as his campaign manager.


Willie Barrow was the first woman to serve as a national vice president of Operation PUSH, and in 1986, became the president of Operation PUSH, retiring in 1989. She served as a co-chairperson of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition (RPC), and in 2009 was the RPC chairperson, emeritus.

More Activism:


Willie Barrow was also active in working against US involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1968, Barrow and two others led a delegation to North Vietnam.

Willie Barrow was also active in the National Urban League and the NCNW. She's also been involved in women's issues and in gay and lesbian issues. In 1983, her adopted son, Keith, died of HIV/AIDS, and Willie Barrow made one of the first AIDS quilts.

Background, Family:


  • Father: Nelson Taplin, pastor in Texas
  • Her father was Baptist, her mother Methodist, and an uncle who lived with the family was a Jehovah's Witness




  • Texas high school
  • Warner Pacific School of Theology, Portland, Oregon
  • Moody Bible Institute, Chicago
  • Central Conservatory of Music
  • University of Monrovia, Monrovia, Liberia, Doctor of Divinity


Marriage, Children:


  • husband: Clyde Barrow (died 1998 at age 75, after more than 50 years of marriage; welder)
  • children: Keith Barrow (singer, died of AIDS in 1983), Patricia Caray




Organizations: Vernon Park Church of God, Operation PUSH, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, National Urban League, NCNW, Reverend Willie Barrow Wellness Center, Barrow Health Mobile Clinic

Religion: Church of God


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