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Mary Krane Derr

human-rights campaigner, women organizer, and religious leader, often called S. Willie Layton or Layten, was born Sarah W. Phillips in Grenada, Mississippi, to the minister William H. Phillips and Mary H. Phillips, a housekeeper. William Phillips was born in January 1841 in Virginia, also the birthplace of both his parents. Mary Phillips was born in June 1845 in Mississippi, the birthplace of both of her parents. Very likely, both were born enslaved, as was Sarah at the time of her birth. Layton's parents wed in 1862. The 1900 U.S. Census records Layton as the only surviving child of six. Her father worked for denominational self-determination and professionalized clergy in the black churches. Layton's upbringing stressed the intersection of human rights, especially educational rights, of African Americans and women.

As a teenager, she lived in Memphis, Tennessee, with her parents and attended LeMoyne (now LeMoyne-Owen) College, graduating in 1881 ...