Gloria Jean (Blair) Howard was born on June 14, 1943, in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 1961 she graduated from Dudley High School, where as a member of the NAACP Youth chapter, she had attended meetings and participating in membership campaigns. During her junior year, Howard’s brother Ezell Blair, Jr., (now Jibreel Khazan), was one of the four participants of the Feb. 1, 1960 sit-in at Woolworth’s.
Howard enrolled at Bennett College in Greensboro, where she became more active in the local civil rights movement. She participated in pickets, demonstrations, and sit-ins, and was often involved in behind-the-scenes work. Howard was also one of the many demonstrators arrested and incarcerated in the polio hospital in May of 1963.