Annie Mable McDaniel Abrams is a retired educator and a political, social, civic, and community activist in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She was instrumental in campaigns to rename various Little Rock streets in honor of Daisy Bates and Mayor Charles Bussey. Most notably, she was a leader in the campaign resulting in the renaming of High Street in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and in the institution of Little Rock’s first Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.
Annie McDaniel was born on September 25, 1931, in Arkadelphia (Clark County). She is the eldest of four children born to Queen Victoria Annie Katherine Reed. McDaniel’s father died when she was eighteen months old, and she was reared with the help of her grandfather James Arnold.
McDaniel attended the Peake School, the segregated school in Arkadelphia, until the age of thirteen. In 1944, her mother sent her to Little Rock to pursue a better education. While in Little Rock, she lived with her cousin Lucille Denton, whose husband was Herbert Denton, the principal of Stephens Elementary. McDaniel graduated from Dunbar High School in 1950 and enrolled in Dunbar Junior College, majoring in teacher education. After graduating in 1952 with full licensure in education, she was offered a scholarship to the prestigious Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Due to her financial circumstances, she was unable to attend and forfeited the scholarship.
McDaniel relocated to Marianna (Lee County) to teach at the segregated elementary school, which consisted of three rooms. She remained there until 1956, when she accepted a position with the Arkansas Teachers Association (ATA), an activist organization instituted to support equality for black teachers in Arkansas. She married Orville Abrams upon her return; they had four children. She later enrolled in Philander Smith College on a part-time basis, graduating with a BA in special education in 1962. Orville Abrams suffered a massive stroke in 1970 and died in 2000.
Annie Abrams took an active role in community issues upon her return to Little Rock in 1956. Through her work with the ATA, she became involved with the desegregation of Central High School, being a close associate of Daisy Bates during the Central High crisis. Abrams also involved herself in Democratic Party politics, at one point joining a group of Democratic women who campaigned for Republican Winthrop Rockefeller as he sought the state’s governorship. She began active participation in the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) leadership during the 1970s. In 1978, she traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, as a YWCA delegate representing North America at a United Nations conference as a non-governmental organization (NGO) affiliate.
Photo: Arkansas Democrat Gazette