Nannie Berger Hairston

Nannie Berger Hairston (1921–)

Christiansburg
Community activist

Nannie Mae Berger Hairston (b. 1921) grew up in West Virginia, where her father worked in the coalfields. Her parents taught her the value of knowledge, kinship, and kindness by sharing their home and food with travelers and neighbors. Since settling with her husband and four daughters in Christiansburg in 1953, Hairston has worked quietly and tirelessly for her community. An advocate for civil rights, she joined the Montgomery County–Radford City–Floyd County branch of the NAACP, in which she held numerous offices and continues to be a member. She was also a founding member of the Montgomery County League of Women Voters. Hairston has worked to expand local employment opportunities for African American women and opened her home to children in need.

Dedicated to preserving local history as well as educating young people, Hairston has been an advocate since the 1960s on behalf of the Christiansburg Community Center. Formerly known as the Hill School, it was the original site of what became the Christiansburg Institute, the only high school in southwestern Virginia for African American students.

In 1997 the state chapter of the NAACP recognized Hairston's civic and humanitarian work with the Maggie L. Walker Community Service Award. A bronze bust of Hairston, created to commemorate her community work, was dedicated at the Montgomery County Government Center in 2006 and the local branch of the Virginia NAACP annually presents the Nannie B. Hairston Award to a member for outstanding and long-standing service to the branch and community.

Nominated by the third-grade class (2011–2012) of Mary W. Biggs, Harding Avenue Elementary School, Blacksburg.

Watch a video of Nannie Hairston’s acceptance speech, Wednesday, January 30, 2013.

Read an article from Roanoke Times & World News, Feb 2, 1997 p.13

Educational Questions:

  1. What did Mrs. Hairston claim was her biggest achievement?
  2. Would you agree? Why or why not?
  3. What would you want to be your biggest achievement? How would you want to be remembered? Write your own obituary including this success.

Download Nannie Berger Hairston's proofreading exercise. Visit the For Educators section for more information and to download the exercise containing all eight 2013 honorees.