From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Griffin, Edna M. Williams

(born: October 23, 1909  -  died: February 8, 2000) 

Edna M. Williams Griffin was born in Carlisle, KY and grew up in Walpole, NH. She later moved to Des Moines, IA. A 1933 Fisk University graduate, she was employed as a school teacher in New York City when she enlisted in the Army in 1945, according to her enlistment record in Ancestry. She was married to Dr. Stanley Griffin; after her military service  the couple moved to Des Moines, where Edna
became a civil rights activist in the Progressive Party. She had also been an activist at Fisk.

In 1948, Edna's daughter and some friends were refused ice cream cones in the Katz Drug Store in Iowa because it did not serve African Americans. Griffin led sit-ins, picketed the drug store, and sued the store owner. She won her civil case and was awarded $1. Griffin went on to found the Iowa Congress for Racial Equality and participated in the March on Washington in 1963. She was the co-chair of Shirley Chisholm's 1972 bid for the Democratic Party's nomination for President of the United States.

Edna M. Williams Griffin was the oldest of the four children of Edward and Henrietta Williams. Both of her parents were from Kenucky. The family had not been in New Hampshire very long when they were enumerated in the 1920 U.S. Census. Edward Williams supported his family as a farmer. All of the children were born in Kentucky; the youngest was two years old in the 1920 Census.

For more see T. Longden, "Edna Griffin," Des Moines Register, 1/28/2001, Metro Iowa Famous Iowans section, p. 1B; the Edna Griffin Papers at the University of Iowa website; and "Services are set for Edna Griffin, civil rights pioneer," The Des Moines Register, 2/25/2000, p. 21.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Nicholas County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Carlisle, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: The Des Moines register (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Ancestry (online)
NKAA Entry: African American WACs Born in Kentucky

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry: Griffin, Edna M. Williams

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Griffin, Edna M. Williams,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 16, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-05-22 16:44:01