Mrs. Mae Rachel Freeman
Intro & Biography

Welcome to the official website honoring the memory of Mae Rachel Freeman. We appreciate your taking the time to learn more about this truly remarkable person.

On this site you will find Mrs. Freeman biography (this page), a list of the causes and organizations that were important to or recognized her accomplishments (Recognition), remembrances of her from friends and family (Remembrances), information about her family (Family) and an original story by Mrs. Freeman that YOU can finish (Chicken Lady Ann). If you'd like to contact us about this site or leave a remembrance, email Info@Rachel-Freeman.com.

Mae Rachel was born July 27, 1941 in Elizabethtown, NC, the oldest child of Johnnie Harrison Richardson, Sr. and the late Minnie McKoy Richardson. She attended public school in Bladen and New Hanover counties, and later earned a high school equivalency certificate. She completed courses at UNCW where she excelled in creative writing.

At the age of 13, Mae Rachel, as her family called her, became very ill, and lost her eyesight. She was diagnosed with the disease Sarcoidosis, a chronic illness that primarily affects the lungs, eyes and limbs. Although she regained her eyesight, periodically her eyesight would diminish, sometimes leaving her unable to drive and making reading very difficult. For a short time, she was unable to walk and was forced to use a wheelchair. Breathing was a challenge as she had very limited lung capacity. In spite of that, she was determined to serve her family and community, and never let her health issues get in the way. She attended Ephesus Seventh-Day Adventist Church from ages 12 - 19 and became a member of Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church when she married.

Rachel was married to her junior high school sweetheart, William “Bill” Freeman on November 1, 1959. Five children (Rodney, William Darnell, Sharon, Elise, and Melissa) were born to this union. She was a devoted wife and mother and spent her early adult life nurturing her family.

Rachel valued a good education, so she became active in PTA’s at her children’s schools. She was also very involved in eliminating racism and empowering women and worked diligently within community organizations to achieve this. She was especially active with the YWCA doing committee work, eventually joining the Board of Directors and becoming Chair of the Board. Later, she became even more involved with educational concerns and was appointed to an unexpired term on the New Hanover County Board of Education. She was elected and re-elected to this position where she fought valiantly for equal access to quality education for all children.

While on the board of education, Rachel helped organize and lead a committee that lobbied local legislators and even traveled to Raleigh to support such statewide initiatives as increased school funding, higher pay for teachers and extra money for school facilities. Most planks of that platform were eventually enacted. She was called the “the conscience of the board” by some and a “consensus builder with a broad vision of education” by others.

Mrs. Freeman died September 26, 1996, after her long battle with Sarcoidosis. After her death, a Morning Star editorial commented”


“She argued for what she believed was best for all children, black and white.  Often disappointed but never without hope, she encouraged blacks and whites to talk honestly about the deep-rooted issues that often divide them. …Few people accomplish as much in a long life as Rachel Freeman did in a short one.”

One could argue that Rachel actually won the battle with her disease. In the words of Bernie Siegel, noted author and medical doctor:

“Beating a disease is not about being immortal but about how one lives in the face of adversity."

Based on that definition, we could certainly conclude that she” beat” her disease through her well-lived life.        

Information for Mrs. Freeman’s biography was taken from several sources, including Mrs. Freeman’s obituary, and a Star News article written by Ben Steelman.

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