Martha Sanders

The founding executive director of the Erie Human Relations Commission, Bishop Martha Sanders has also served in the same capacity in nearby Farrell and Mercer County.  A pioneer for women in ministry and strong advocate of civil rights, Sanders has earned several gubernatorial appointments over the course of a storied lifetime of service.  When she led the Human Relations Commission in Erie back in the 1970s, Sanders leveled successful charges in court against the city over its failure to address systemic discrimination in hiring and employment practices.  The court victory triggered what appeared to be a retaliatory defunding of the HRC.  Following an outcry, funding was reinstated, but Sanders not rehired.  Sanders left Erie, returning in 1984 to speak at a dinner honoring the officers she helped to successfully get on the force.  Nothing would ever change, she declared, “unless someone has the guts to demand it.”  And in a further comment that rings hauntingly true today, Sanders declared, “Our minds and hearts have been divided, and not by accident.” 

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