Who is Mary Church Terrell?

Mary Church Terrell was well-known for her efforts in both racial equality and women’s suffrage. She was the daughter of former slaves, who had later become one of the South’s first African American millionaire families. While a high school teacher, Terrell’s activism was sparked by the lynching of an old friend. She later joined Ida B. Wells in anti-lynching campaigns as well as the fight for women’s suffrage. Terrell would eventually become the first president of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). During her tenure, she campaigned, wrote, and spoke extensively on the importance and necessity of black women’s suffrage.

“Colored women are the only group in this country who have two heavy handicaps to overcome, that of race as well as that of sex.”

Mary Church Terrell, three-quarter length portrait, seated, facing front. [1880 and 1900, printed later] Photograph. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

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