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Brenna Sanchez

Englishprofessor, civil rights activist, and scholar of African American literature, was born Mary Fair and raised in Montgomery, Alabama. Little information is available about her family. Burks bucked the Jim Crow system of segregation even as a child in the 1930s, using whites-only elevators, restrooms, and other facilities in what she later called “my own private guerilla warfare” (Bolden, 241). At age eighteen she earned a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Alabama State College, and a year later earned her master's degree from the University of Michigan. She returned to Montgomery to teach English at the Alabama State Laboratory High School and, later, at Alabama State College. Burks married the principal of Alabama State Laboratory High School, Nathaniel Burks. The couple would have one son, Nathaniel W. Burks Jr.

She became head of the Alabama State College English department and later earned her doctorate from Columbia ...