Written by Nancy Baker Jones
Read by Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez
The grandchild of slaves, Annie Mae Hunt was born in 1909 near Brenham. She picked cotton near Navasota for 50 cents a day in conditions she compared to “slavery times,” meaning that she, her mother, and sister endured intimidation, beatings, and sexual assault by white and sometimes black men. Even so, she declared, “a man never beat me up and got away with it!”
Married at 15, she later left her husband and moved to Dallas with her three children. There she married Marvin Hunt. Without access to birth control, she had 20 children and lost 7 of them. With a 5th-grade education, Annie Mae Hunt earned a living as a domestic worker and sold home-made pies and, later, Avon cosmetics. She bought her own house and retired to an active life in Democratic Party politics that took her to President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration.
The historian Ruthe Winegarten published Hunt’s oral history in 1983. Called “I Am Annie Mae,” it sold 1,000 copies in three months. Winegarten and composer Naomi Carrier later transformed the book into a musical that reverberated with rock-and-roll, gospel, jazz, and blues songs. It was staged 20 times.
Through the spread of her story, Annie Mae Hunt became a celebrity, enjoying what she called being “a queen bee.” She died in 2003, survived by her husband and 69 descendents. U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson read a tribute to Hunt into the Congressional Record in her honor.
Dallas Morning News, November 22, 2003.
Jones, Nancy Baker. “Ruthe Winegarten” in Patrick L. Cox and Kenneth E. Hendrickson, eds. Writing the Story of Texas. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013.
“Tribute to Annie Mae Hunt,” Congressional Record (Senate), October 28, 2003. Vol. 149, Part 19 (Oct. 24, 2003 – Nov. 4, 2003). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2007.
Winegarten, Ruthe, ed., I Am Annie Mae: An Extraordinary Woman in Her Own Words—The Personal Story of a Black Texas Woman. Austin: Rosegarden Press, 1983. Reprinted as I Am Annie Mae: An Extraordinary Black Texas Woman in Her Own Words. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996.
Audio Source Information
Our project, "Texas Women's History Moments," received the 2012 National Council on Public History Outstanding Public History Award and the American Association for State and Local History Leadership in History Award. The audio clips were broadcast on KUT radio from 2011-2016 during Women’s History Month.