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Anna McKeever Hilliard Visionary Award

Anna McKeever Hilliard was born in the United States in the 1850s. Although today she would be called an African American, in the 1850s she was called a slave or even worst. When she was 12 years old, she was freed from her enslavement. 

Anna McKeever Hilliard’s life was fairly unremarkable for a woman of that time. She married and had a family. But sometime in the late 1880s as the story is told, she had a 'Damascus Road' experience. And out of that experience was birthed a vision - a belief that there would be a better life for the future generations of her family. Mrs. Hilliard prayed to God, and asked the Almighty to look favorably upon the members of our family and bless them. It was with that hope and belief that she instituted a tradition of daily prayers for the current generation and the unborn generations to come. This tradition has survived for over 100 years and continues to this very day.

Anna McKeever Hilliard wanted to ensure that her family received God’s daily blessing and that their steps were protected before their feet touched the floor. Consequently, she prayed for her family during the early morning hours. Mrs. Hilliard would end her prayer by asking God to bless the unborn generations of her family to come. She believed that her meager beginnings were not an indication of the future destiny of her family.

In 1929, when Anna McKeever Hilliard passed on to her final reward, her granddaughter Anna Belle Dixon Smith picked up the mantle. In 1992 when Anna Belle Dixon Smith passed on, her daughter, Alma Dolores Stringer Washington received the mantle. She continues this tradition of family prayer to this very day.   


Although this is the story of my great, great grandmother, those of us in this room are standing on the shoulders of greatness. Many of our ancestors tended land, cared for families, and cleaned houses that were not their own. Some of them picked cotton, berries, or fruit in the blazing heat to support their families. Others worked on railroads, in coal mines, dug ditches, and endured inhuman treatment in the belief that a better day was coming for future generations of their family. They had a vision of hope and a belief in a brighter day for which they could only dream. 


The Michigan Minority Health Coalition has a vision of hope and belief in a brighter future for the health outcomes of Michigan’s minority population. In light of that vision, we formed a multi-ethnic statewide coalition to address the issue of racial and ethnic disparities and inequities.

The recipients of this award have exhibited the vision, belief, faith, and hope of Anna McKeever Hilliard. We thank them for their contribution in advancing the health of Michigan’s current and future minority populations. And we give them this award in appreciation of their great contribution.