Ohio Civil Rights Hall Of Fame

The Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame was created in 2009 through the collaborative efforts of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, Honda of America Mfg., Inc., Wright State University, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and PNC.* The Civil Rights Hall of Fame seeks to acknowledge outstanding Ohioans who are recognized as pioneers in human and civil rights and who have advanced the goals of equality and inclusion. Inductees of the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame are individuals who have made significant contributions in support of civil rights, cultural awareness and understanding in furtherance of a more just society.

11th Annual Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission welcomed the following 2019 inductees at the 11th Annual Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame induction ceremony on October 10, 2019 at 10:00am at the Ohio Statehouse Atrium. 

Click the video below to view the full ceremony


Meet the 2019 Inductees

Thomas Jefferson Ferguson photo

Thomas Jefferson Ferguson

Thomas Jefferson Ferguson was born in 1830 in Essex County, Virginia and by age 10 he had moved with his family to Cincinnati. As one of the first in his family to be able to read and write, he learned the value of literacy early on and committed his life to helping and teaching others. By his early twenties, Ferguson was traveling across Southeastern Ohio and West Virginia teaching African American students how to read. In his late twenties, he joined and served the first lodge for African American Freemasons west of the Alleghenies and was later honored by the Grand Lodge of Freemasons for his professional acumen.

In 1857, Ferguson enrolled in the Albany Manual Labor Academy (AMLU) in order to pursue the equivalent of a college education. He stayed at AMLU until it was purchased by a private organization that did not allow people of color or women. After being denied his own higher education because of his race, he helped to create the Albany Enterprise Academy in 1863. Albany Enterprise Academy is recognized as the first institution of higher education created, owned, and operated by and for African Americans. Ferguson’s teaching and leadership at Albany Enterprise Academy inspired many educators and civil rights leaders.

In addition to his work as an educator, Ferguson spearheaded the formulation of the Ohio Colored Teacher’s Association. He also served as a politician and policy leader in Ohio. He was the first African American to hold political office and to serve on a jury in Athens county and was named to the state Republican executive committee’s speakers bureau. Ferguson used his influence to be an advocate of advancing educational opportunities for African Americans, lecturing and writing on the ability of education to break through the societal barriers initiated by slavery. His role as a trailblazer and steadfast education advocate lives on in a legacy of those he taught and inspired.

Mary Hackney PhotoMary Hackney

Mary Hackney was born in November 1915 on a family farm on Carlton Mill Road near Wilberforce, Ohio. She graduated from Silvercreek High School in Jamestown, Ohio and attended Cedarville College to become a teacher. Hackney’s first teaching position was at the Old Town Run School in Greene County and she later went on to teach at Mt. Pleasant School in Clinton County as well as Trotwood Elementary. She was one of the first white Americans to be an administrator and teacher at an all-African American school. Hackney’s life was dedicated to ensuring equal education was provided to all, no matter their race or ethnicity.

In 1954 the African American families of Hillsboro, Ohio’s Lincoln School began protesting about the continued segregation occurring in violation of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. Upon hearing of the protests, Hackney led a group of Quaker teachers in providing the protesting children with daily lessons when they were denied access to the all-white school. Despite intimidation and threats to her family, she continued to educate the protesting students until the district was finally desegregated. During integration, the district tested the African American students who had been taught by the Quaker teachers, and all the children except one passed the test and were able to resume their formal education. Hackney later investigated and discovered that all the children had passed the exam – with scores ranging from 80-90% – but the school board held back one student unfairly. After the desegregation of the schools, the parents of the students purchased Mary a ticket to see Martin Luther King, Jr. speak in Columbus, Ohio. 

Because of her role in the Hillsboro school protest, Hackney was featured in the film The Lincoln School Story by Andrea Torrice. In 2007, she was recognized as one of the Outstanding Women of Clinton County for her leading role in Hillsboro. In 2017, a plaque was presented to Mary Hackney’s family from the New Hope Baptist Church.

Jack Hansan photo

Dr. John (Jack) Hansan

Dr. John (Jack) E. Hansan was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1930. He attended the University of Pennsylvania for his master’s degree and received a doctorate degree in social welfare policy from Brandeis University. Jack Hansan’s early career began in social work, and he and his young family arrived in Cincinnati in 1959 to work at local settlement houses – the seedbed of social reform in the early-to-mid-20th Century. His work in settlement houses required him to think about ways to help individuals, families, and communities to cope with social barriers, including racial discrimination in employment and housing.

While working as the Executive Director of Seven Neighborhood Houses and the Chair of the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Hansan volunteered to help organize the Cincinnati delegation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington. Hansan kept a journal of Cincinnati’s role in the March on Washington and published it so that researchers and historians would have a primary source on the role Ohio played in this monumental event in our nation’s civil rights history.

In 1964, Hansan was selected to be a director of the Community Action Commission of the Cincinnati Area. In that role he designed and implemented programs to combat poverty, including the original educational program to give inner-city, pre-school children in Cincinnati a head start before entering kindergarten. The “Tot-Lots” program was successfully rolled out in Cincinnati and became the framework for what is known today as the Head Start Program.

In 1971, Ohio Governor John J. Gilligan appointed Hansan as the Director of the Ohio Department of Public Welfare. While working for the Governor, Hansan helped strengthen the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and its efforts to eradicate racial and religious discrimination, increased support for the Aid to Dependent Children program, helped deinstitutionalize individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, created the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to protect Ohio’s air and water, and established the Governor’s Business and Employment Council to improve the business climate, including increased opportunities for minority enterprises. Hansan would later go on to continue some of this work at the national level.

After Dr. Hansan’s retirement in 2010, he created the Social Welfare History Project, a website that helps the public understand the history of social reform and social welfare services that have strengthened our country. This website is a well-used and reliable source and includes not only the positive development in social welfare, but also the acts of omission and discrimination. Use statistics from the web site show that it sees over 7,000 unique visitors daily and has become an important resource for students, community researchers, journalists, scholars, and human rights activists.

Dr. Hansan died on August 9, 2019 but his lifetime of service in pursuit of social welfare and equality has been recognized nationally by organizations like the National Association of Social Work (“Social Work Pioneer” - 1997).

photo of Geraldine Mock in flight suitGeraldine (Jerrie) Mock

Geraldine Mock was born November 22, 1925 in Newark, Ohio. Mock graduated from The Ohio State University where she was one of the first women enrolled in the Aeronautical Engineering Program. She earned her pilot license at age 32 and started flying around the Midwest, but she longed to visit countries she had always dreamt of as a child. That desire is what started her journey to be the first woman to fly solo around the entire world.

On March 19, 1964, Mock took off from the Port Columbus airport and started her journey to fly 23,000 miles around the globe. Before this flight Mock had never flown over water, but she did not let that fear blind her and persisted until she arrived back in Columbus 29 days later, on April 17, 1964. Throughout this trip she made 21 landings, one of them being in Saudi Arabia where Mock accidently landed at a military airfield. Her plane was searched to find the pilot, who they all assumed to be male, but once they found a woman she was applauded because she was the lone aviator.

Mock was one of the 12,472 women in the United States licensed to fly, but by the end of the decade, and the end of her flight, there were about 30,000 women who had gotten their pilot licenses due to the inspiring journey she had taken. She told Jim Massie of the Columbus Dispatch in 1994 that “I was never going to abide by manmade laws that said women couldn’t do something…I knew one thing: I wanted to see the world.” Mock had set seven records by the end of her flight: she was the first woman to fly solo around the world, first woman to fly across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the first woman to do so in a single engine-plane, the first woman to fly the Atlantic from US to Africa, and the first woman to fly the Pacific west to east.On May 4, 1964 President Lyndon Johnson presented Mock with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Exceptional Service Decoration. Along with that she was the first American and woman to be awarded the Louis Blériot silver medal by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Through Mock’s achievements and persistence, she has paved a way for gender equality and has served as an inspiration to generations of female aviators to follow.

Burt Silverman photoBurt Silverman

Burt Silverman was born in Toledo in 1919. He graduated Toledo Scott High School in 1937 and earned a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University in 1942. Silverman was regarded as the Toledo community’s ambassador to every ethnic, racial, and religious group. He was a mentor to many community members and guided those who sought to learn how they could make a difference. Through his assistance, his mentees gained educational and inspiring experiences and many later went on to pursue jobs in the government. Silverman dedicated his life to the fight against discrimination in the Toledo area as well as the entire state of Ohio. Early in his career, Silverman worked as an editor for the Toledo Jewish News and later served as the Executive Director of Downtown Toledo Associates. 

Silverman’s greatest impact was through his position as Chairman of the Toledo Board of Community Relations. He held this position as a volunteer for 26 years and through the racially divided times of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s.  In 1972, Silverman was appointed to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission by Governor John Gilligan. He served as a Chairman of the Commission from 1974-1977. Silverman’s work as Chairman of the Toledo Board of Community Relations as well as his role as Chairman of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission allowed him to fight against injustice and discrimination daily.Burt Silverman’s legacy as a community-builder continues today. In the late sixties, Silverman brought together 22 African American leaders and 22 white leaders to discuss what could be done to help move black-white relations forward. Still today, staff of The Toledo Blade and members of minority and majority communities meet quarterly to advance civil rights initiatives and equal rights opportunities in northwest Ohio.

Stanley Tolliver photo

Stanley Eugene Tolliver, Sr.

Stanley Eugene Tolliver, Sr. was born in October 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio. Tolliver graduated from East Technical High School in Cleveland and earned his bachelor’s degree from Baldwin Wallace University. He then pursued an LLD and JD degree from the Cleveland State Marshall School of Law. Tolliver advocated the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion through his practice of law.

As a criminal defense attorney, he took on numerous controversial cases of police brutality and racially charged situations, such as the Hough and Glenville Riots in the 1960's. He served as legal counsel for numerous civil rights organizations in Cleveland, Ohio such as the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) under Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the NAACP, and the National Conference of Black Lawyers.

Throughout his career, Tolliver advocated for women and minorities in the legal profession, giving them support for their bids to run for office and defending them when they faced discrimination. In 1965, Tolliver traveled to Jacksonville, Mississippi for the signing of the Voting Rights Act and was featured in live television coverage of the event. Tolliver was the only African American attorney involved in the defense of the students charged in the Kent State anti-Vietnam War protest.

Tolliver was an outspoken advocate for the desegregation of Cleveland Public Schools and after the school systems’ boards of education were determined to be segregating illegally, he was appointed by a Federal judge to sit on committees to monitor desegregation. In 1981, Tolliver was elected to membership on the Cleveland Board of Education and was elected as president of the Board twice during his twelve years of service. He advocated more parent involvement in the lives of Cleveland school children and pushed for the hiring of more female and minority building contractors and professional staff.

At the end of his long career as a civil rights advocate, Tolliver was awarded the NAACP Medal of Freedom.


* Acknowledgement of the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame sponsors is not intended as an endorsement of these organizations.