Ruth Cousins Denny
Ruth Cousins Denny
Date of Birth
Born 1920 Died 2012
Education and Activism/Advocacy
The granddaughter of enslaved persons and one of five children of a widowed mother, Ruth Cousins Denny was painfully made aware of racial discrimination at a very young age. When she went shopping with her mother, and the clerks would not wait on her mother, Denny spoke up declaring, “My mother is next”. This moment coupled with many other racism-fueled experiences led Denny to dream of becoming a lawyer to fight discrimination, but the times and financial circumstances made law school impossible. Instead, knowing the importance of education to better one’s life, she earned her college degree in education and taught in the St. Louis and Denver Public Schools for 30 years.
She moved to Denver in 1951 thinking that Denver would be a place of fairness and equality, but quickly learned that Denver was not the utopia she thought it was. Determined to fight racial injustice, she became one of the founders and the first female Chairperson of the Denver Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) that planned and implemented picketing and boycotting of businesses that practiced discrimination in hiring and promotions including The Denver Dry Goods Store, Zone Cab, King Soopers, and Safeway. CORE also activated plans to fight discrimination in housing and education.
Under Denny’s leadership, CORE was successful as an agent of change leading to the dismantling of discriminatory practices by many businesses. She led fundraising to support a contingent of two coach bus loads of Coloradoans to the March on Washington for civil rights in 1963. While her activities were frowned upon not only by the white community but by some of her own people who thought that she was a troublemaker, she kept pushing forward in every aspect of her daily life, working to ensure human rights and dignity for all. Forty years later, she originated and personally invested in the “Rebels Remembered” project to document the Civil Rights movement in Colorado to ensure that the children of Colorado would learn that Colorado also participated in the Civil Rights movement.
She served on numerous boards and committees of organizations with missions of fairness, equity and help for underserved people including the YMCA, the YWCA, the Urban League of Denver, and the League of Women Voters. Denny personally broke color barriers in organizations and housing. She was a strong and courageous woman who was devoted to serving and uplifting marginalized people in Colorado and in our nation.