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Paula J. Giddings

Born in Mayesville, South Carolina, and educated at a Presbyterian school in North Carolina and Chicago's Moody Bible Institute, Bethune in 1904 founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for girls in Florida; she was its president until 1942. Merged with Cookman Institute in 1923, it was subsequently known as Bethune-Cookman College—the only extant historically black college founded by a black woman. In 1935, she founded the National Council of Negro Women, which united the major black women's organizations, including the National Association of Colored Women, of which she had been president (1924–1928). She was also active in several interracial civil rights organizations.

Bethune's service on the advisory committee of the New Deal's National Youth Administration (1936–1943) extended her influence, particularly after she became director of its Negro Affairs Division in 1939 Her access to the White House and her alliance with ...


Darlene Clark Hine

organizer of black women and advocate for social justice, was born Mary Jane McLeod in Mayesville, South Carolina, the child of the former slaves Samuel McLeod and Patsy McIntosh, farmers. After attending a school operated by the Presbyterian Board of Missions for Freedmen, she entered Scotia Seminary (later Barber‐Scotia College) in Concord, North Carolina, in 1888 and graduated in May 1894. She spent the next year at Dwight Moody's evangelical Institute for Home and Foreign Missions in Chicago, Illinois. In 1898 she married Albertus Bethune. They both taught briefly at Kindell Institute in Sumter, South Carolina. The marriage was not happy. They had one child and separated late in 1907. After teaching in a number of schools, Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Training Negro Girls in Daytona, Florida, in 1904 Twenty years later the school merged with a boys school the ...


Elaine M. Smith

Long deemed the most influential black American woman, Bethune is, by scholarly consensus, one of the most important black Americans in history regardless of gender, alongside Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Martin Luther King Jr. Unflinchingly, she championed the democratic values that define the nation. She took personally the well-being of the body politic, particularly in the crisis of two world wars. President Franklin D. Roosevelt viewed Bethune as a great patriot devoted to advancing all Americans. Bethune’s accomplishments were so impressive in relationship to resources, and her interest in people, regardless of nationality and locality, was so genuine, that any freedom-loving country could feel proud to claim her as its own.


Kelly J. Baker

Abby Kelley was born in Pelham, Massachusetts, to parents of Irish-Quaker descent. She graduated from a Friends' school in Rhode Island in 1829 and became a teacher. In 1836 she moved to Lynn, Massachusetts, for a teaching position. While in Lynn, Kelley became involved with the Lynn Female Society, an antislavery organization for women. She quickly gained positions as secretary and eventually as director of the organization. Kelley became involved in the abolitionist cause, and William Lloyd Garrison's attacks on slavery in particular impressed her. After hearing her speak at an antislavery meeting, Garrison and Theodore Dwight Weld encouraged Kelley to join the antislavery cause as a lecturer; in 1839 she left teaching to join the lecture circuit It is possible that she was the first woman after the Grimké sisters to speak before mixed audiences Kelley was scorned and mocked by many of her audiences ...


Lisa Clayton Robinson

Born to former slaves in Lowndes County, Alabama, Elizabeth Ross Haynes became a pioneering urban sociologist. Haynes graduated valedictorian of the State Normal School (now Alabama State University) in 1900. She received an A.B. from Fisk University in 1903, and later received an M.A. in sociology from Columbia University in 1923.

After graduation from Fisk, Haynes taught school and worked for segregated branches of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). In 1910, she married George Haynes, a sociologist and cofounder of the National Urban League; their son was born in 1912. After her marriage, Haynes continued to work in unsalaried positions.

From 1918 to 1922, Haynes worked for the U.S. Department of Labor, and from 1920 to 1922 she served as domestic service secretary for the U S Employment Service Throughout her career Haynes was especially concerned with black women ...


Cecily Jones

The first female African‐American author of a fugitive slave narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861). Born in North Carolina to an enslaved mother, who died when Jacobs was aged 6, she then lived with her grandmother and her mistress, from whom she learnt to read and write. Following her mistress's death, Jacobs was sent to Dr James Norcom, who subjected her to prolonged physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. To avoid Norcom's unwanted sexual attentions, Jacobs began a relationship with a white attorney, with whom she had two children.

Hoping that by running away she might persuade Norcom to sell her children to their father, in 1835 Jacobs concealed herself above a storeroom in her grandmother's house, before escaping to the North in 1842. She joined a circle of abolitionists who worked for the North Star, Frederick Douglass's newspaper. In 1853 ...


As a child, Susan Maria Smith McKinney-Steward trained and performed as an organist. Her early training qualified her for teaching positions, and she taught school in Washington, D.C., and New York City, using the proceeds of her New York teaching to pay tuition for medical school.

McKinney-Steward began medical study at the New York Medical College for Women in 1867. She specialized in homeopathic medicine and graduated as class valedictorian after three years. After receiving her degree she achieved wealth and a local reputation as a successful Brooklyn physician with an interracial clientele. McKinney-Steward excelled especially in pediatric care and the treatment of childhood diseases. Outside her medical practice she agitated for social reform, advocating female suffrage and temperance. Until the early 1890s she remained the organist for the African Methodist Episcopal church where she regularly worshiped.

Both of McKinney Steward s husbands were ministers She was ...


Leigh Fought

Abolitionists on both sides of the Atlantic respected and admired Elizabeth Pease for her efforts on behalf of the enslaved. For several generations her family had been prominent Darlington, England, wool merchants, which placed them in economic competition with slave-grown cotton. As Quakers, they supported a variety of reforms for the poor and against the transatlantic slave trade. Her cousin by marriage, Elizabeth Fry, had led the prison reform movement. Her father, Joseph Pease, and uncle, Edward Pease had been among the founders of the Peace Society. After the 1832 Reform Act, her cousin, Joseph Pease was the first Quaker to gain a seat in Parliament.

Elizabeth Pease supported her father in his political efforts but also pursued her own reform agenda. After supporting the Reform Act of 1832 which not only allowed her father to hold office but also was intended to expand voting rights and ...


Paula Gallant Eckard

An articulate lecturer and writer, Mary Church Terrell fought to end lynching, disenfranchisement, employment discrimination, public segregation, and other injustices. Over her long career Terrell's activism evolved from “Woman's Era” refinement to direct action, militant tactics involving picketing, sit-ins, and boycotts. In her late eighties she organized and led demonstrations against Washington, D.C., restaurants that refused to serve blacks. One such effort culminated in the famous Thompson Restaurant case and the 1953 Supreme Court ruling that opened Washington, D.C., eating establishments to all races.

The daughter of former slaves, Terrell was born in 1863 in Memphis, Tennessee. Her father, Robert Reed Church, was a prominent Memphis businessman and the first black millionaire in the South. Nicknamed Mollie, Mary Church Terrell graduated in 1884 from Oberlin College where she followed the gentlemen s course studying Latin and Greek and earning a BA degree rather than the two ...


Patricia E. Green

author, editor, historian, musician, and advocate for interracial, intercultural, and international understanding, was the youngest of nine children born to the Reverend Isaac George Bailey and Susie E. (Ford) Bailey, of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The Reverend Bailey founded a college preparatory academy for black students in Dermott, Arkansas, and had affiliations with the Arkansas Baptist Convention and the National Negro Business League. Susie E. Bailey was president of the Southeast District Baptist Women's Association and was active in women's clubs. Their daughter, Sue, graduated from Spelman Seminary in 1920 and in 1926 became the first black student to receive a bachelor of science degree in Music from Oberlin Conservatory.

Bailey joined the music department at Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia, following graduation. In 1928 she moved to Harlem and assumed the role of the YWCA s national secretary for Colleges of the South ...