Opinion — In service to her community
Published 12:10 pm Thursday, September 16, 2021
You learn something everyday, especially when you are studying history. What you thought you knew is changed due to a new perspective. Georgia Ann Robinson was a dedicated community activist and a United States police officer. Born in Opelousa, Louisiana on May 12, 1879, as Georgia Ann Hill she was raised by her older sister and later in a convent. Subsequently, at age 18 Georgia moved to Kansas and worked as a governess. While there Hill married Morgan Robinson and relocated to Colorado and eventually Los Angeles, California. The couple had one daughter named Marian in 1906.
Georgia got involved in community activism by advocating as a suffragist getting African Americans registered as voters in Colorado and Los Aneles. She was the first treasurer of the local NAACP chapter. Moreover, in 1916 when the Los Angeles Police Department faced a shortage of officers due to many enlisting in World War I. Georgia was recruited to join the LAPD as a volunteer and she worked as a jail matron for three years. In fact, African American women’s clubs worked to get black women hired as police officers. Organizations like the National Association of Colored Women’s Club believed that having African American female officers would protect black women and girls from white male violence as well as sexual objectification.
The strict requirements for becoming a policewoman were age 30-44, be married and hold an education or nursing degree. Georgia fit the bill in that she was thirty-one years old, married and had a nursing degree. On June 10, 1919, she was sworn in as LAPD ‘s first African American policewoman and one of the first African American policewomen in the U. S. She worked with Alice Stebbins Wells, the first white female U. S. policewoman. Furthermore, the LAPD believed that having black women as officers was a type of police reform since they could deal with African American female offenders and it was the first time that the department sought to help the African American community. Georgia basically worked juvenile and homicide cases, especially those involving African American women. Ironically, she was not given a gun, handcuffs or a police car, yet, whenever necessary she was successful in taking people to jail. In many cases Georgia directed black women and girls to social services instead of arresting them. She would even let these youth stay at her home for a short while when they had no where else to go.
Even though juvenile cases were her expertise Georgia could handle any situation she encountered. For example, on Sept. 18, 1918 she rescued two injured women from a car crash. Throughout her career she administered first aid to a juror who collapsed in court, rescued kidnapped babies and searched for kidnapped girls. Georgia had worked 12 years on the force before, unfortunately, an incident caused her to retire. In 1928 a prisoner caused a head injury to her by banging her head into the jail bars.
Nevertheless, this experience did not dampen Georgia’s community work. Georgia helped establish the Sojourner Truth Home which focused on helping new African American female Los Angeles residents adapt to the community and volunteered with the Eastside Shelter for Women and Girls. In addition, she ensured that her daughter Marian’s high school graduation would allow Black students to participate in the ceremony. Also, Georgia was instrumental in desegregating Venice Beach’s “The Ink Spot,” the black section of the beach.
Although in 1954 the trailblazing policewoman was interviewed by Ebony magazine, sadly, on Sept. 21, 1961 at age 82 Georgia died in Los Angeles. Georgia, as a pioneer for African American women in the field of law enforcement, demonstrated that activism, with a combination of compassion, bravery and tenacity, proved invaluable and provided aid for those in need. This phenomenal woman provided a safe environment for her community and that’s what dedicated and great police officers do.
Judy Moore is a tour guide at The Central High Museum, Inc. living in Wylliesburg. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.