Civil rights activist and labor organizer Joseph Gelders was a Birmingham native who cofounded the Southern Conference for Human Welfare with Virginia reformer Lucy Randolph Mason in 1938. At its height, the organization counted such notables as First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and philanthropist and educator Mary McLoed Bethune. In 1936, Gelders was kidnapped and beaten by the Ku Klux Klan for his activities. He also helped found the National Committee to Abolish the Poll Tax. His sister, Emma Gelders Sterne, was a well-known children's author.