Annie Easley was born to Bud McCrory and Willie Sims in Birmingham, Alabama.
She was raised by her mother and had a brother six years her senior.
Before the Civil Rights Movement, educational and career opportunities for African-American children were very limited.
Segregation was prevalent, African-American children were educated separately from white children, and their schools were often inferior to white schools.
Annie's mother told her that she could be anything, but she would have to work at it. she encouraged Annie to get a good education.
From the fifth grade through high school, Annie attended Holy Family High School, and was valedictorian of her graduating class. At a young age Annie had interest in becoming a nurse, but around the age of 16 she decided to study pharmacy.
In 1950, Easley enrolled in classes at Xavier University in New Orleans, which was then an African-American Roman Catholic University, and majored in pharmacy for about two years.
In 1954, she returned to Birmingham. As part of the Jim Crow laws that maintained racial inequality, African Americans were required to pass a literacy test and pay a poll tax in order to vote, which was outlawed in 1964 in the Twenty-fourth Amendment. She remembered the test giver looking at her application and saying only, "You went to Xavier University. Two dollars." Subsequently, she helped other African-Americans prepare for the test.
Shortly thereafter, she moved to Cleveland to be closer to her husband's family, with the intention of continuing her studies. Unfortunately, the local university had ended its pharmacy program a short time before and no nearby alternative existed.
Throughout the 1970s, Easley advocated for and encouraged female and minority students at college career days to work in STEM careers. She tutored elementary and high school children as well as young adults who had dropped out of school in a work-study program.