By Alyssa Schnugg
UPDATED on May 24 with quotes from the artist.
Annie Lee Burt lived much of her 103 years in Lafayette County, serving her church and community while raising her 11 children.
Burt died in January at 103 years old. When she turned 100 years old, the Oxford Mayor and Board of Aldermen read a special resolution honoring Burt and her contributions.
On Tuesday, the Board recognized her once again by voting to accept the loan of a portrait of Burt to be hung for an undetermined amount of time at the Burns-Belfry Museum & Multicultural Center.
The portrait was painted by Oxford artist Jason Bouldin who created the painting in 2019 for a reception held during the Land & Power: The Summit event by Daniel Johnson. The Oxford Artists Guild displayed works of art that depicted historic black residents and locations of black culture in Lafayette County.
“Among other things, a central concern of portraiture is the preservation of memory,” Bouldin said. “I learned that Mrs. Burt had been a local leader in the struggle for Civil Rights in Lafayette County. She was able to do this in part because her family owned their own farm. Being a landowner gave her a certain stability of income.
“She used that economic independence to step up and to step out in order to organize and aid the local Civil Rights movement when others did not feel safe to do so. It seemed appropriate to try to commemorate her spirit and the power of what she was able to accomplish.”
The painting will be on loan from Burt’s family and the city has no liability for the painting and can return the painting to the owners at any time and the family can request its return at any time.
Burt’s daughter, Effie Burt, said she was grateful and cried when she found out the Board approved the agreement.
Burt helped to implement the Federal Head Start program in Lafayette County. A paralegal with North Mississippi Rural Legal Services for 25 years, she helped countless families receive benefits.
Burt was recognized for many achievements and was the recipient of the Harriet Tubman Award from the Magnolia Bar Association and Foundation, In 1999, she was named Mother of the Year, and she received the NAACP Woman of the Year Award in 2000.
Burt dedicated her services to the elderly by volunteering with AARP, Meals on Wheels and as a board member for LIFT, Inc.
She was 100 years old when Bouldin painted her portrait.
“Her longevity in itself is a testament to a life well lived and worthy alone of remembrance,” Bouldin said of Burt. “It was a graceful thing to be in her presence and it was an honor to try to render her physical (tangible) appearance, as well as her less tangible spirit. In the end, I hope the portrait may serve Annie Lee Burt’s memory and the memory of the events with which she was connected.”