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Mary Eliza Church Terrell was a social activist and early feminist who advocated for women's suffrage and civil rights for African Americans. Born to free parents who had been newly emancipated from slavery, she became a formidable educator, lecturer and author.

She is best known as the co-founder and first president of the National Association of Colored Women. The first black woman appointed by the Washington D. As an active member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, she was very involved in striving for women's rights, of particular concern to her were the rights of black women. She stated this concern at a women's suffrage convention in "A white woman has only one handicap to overcome - a great one, true, her sex.

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A colored woman faces two—her sex and her race. A colored man has only one—that of race. Terrell was a prolific writer whose opinion pieces appeared in several black newspapers and periodicals as well as the prominent white news media. She specifically addressed racial problems and issues such as Jim Crow laws, lynching of African Americans, and the convict lease system.

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Known as Mollie, she grew up in a suburb of Memphis with white children as her first playmates Sterling, On Sundays, her father often took her to visit Captain Church. She would later learn that this older white man was her paternal grandfather and had been her father's master. Captain Church had allowed his slave son to learn to read and write. Robert Church went on to become the South's first black millionaire. Louisa Church was also an entrepreneur who owned her own hair store.

Her parents divorced when she was three years old and Mollie and her brother lived with their mother. Mollie was sent to school in Ohio and later attended Antioch and Oberlin Colleges. Though it was her father's desire that she live as a genteel lady, Terrell had other plans. After graduating from Oberlin inshe taught at Wilberforce University and then at a high school in Washington D.

Inshe married Robert Terrell, a teacher and lawyer.

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She gave birth to four babies but only one daughter, Phyllis, survived. She and her husband later adopted their niece, Mary Church. We have become National, because from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Maine to the Gulf, we wish to set in motion influences that shall stop the ravages made by practices that sap our strength, and preclude the possibility of advancement… We call ourselves an Association to ify that we have ed hands one with the other, to work together in a common cause. We proclaim to the world that the women of our race have become partners in the great firm of progress and reform… We refer to the fact that this is an association of colored women, because our peculiar status in this country.

Jones, An active and dynamic lecturer, Terrell was sometimes amazed at the opportunities she was afforded.

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Seldom did she refuse an invitation to speak, viewing each occasion as an opportunity and even a duty to champion the cause of women and of civil rights. Mary Church Terrell lived to be ninety years old and even, in later years, remained very active. In her eighty-sixth year, she persisted in political activism, notably in her pursuit to revive the "lost" anti-discrimination laws of These laws had established that ".

Later, due to changes in Washington D. As head of the Coordinating Committee for the Empowerment of D. Anti-Discrimination laws, Terrell became increasingly militant as she picketed, lead delegations, and was a key witness in a test case involving Thompson Cafeteria Sterling, In the test case, three blacks and one white person entered Thompson Cafeteria and were refused service.

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This case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where justices finally upheld the old laws. Terrell was a champion for justice her entire life, using all of her talents to the best of her ability to quicken America's conscience. She died July 24, in Annapolis, Maryland. Mary Church Terrell spent her adult life working to advance the rights of, primarily, African American women.

She was personally touched by the injustice of being black when hood friend of hers was lynched. But the injustice was a catalyst for a lifetime of advocacy, writing, public speaking, teaching, lobbying, and political activism.

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So, through personal example and individual participation as a citizen, she fought the status quo and raised public awareness in the United States and Europe of America's racial and gender inequality. To aid in her social activism, Terrell helped to found a of important nonprofit organizations. Important People Related to the Topic. Important Related Nonprofit Organizations. Jones, Beverly W. McCluskey, Audrey Thomas. Sterling, Dorothy.

Black Foremothers: Three Lives. Terrell, Mary Church. A Colored Woman in a White World. New York: G. Mary Church Terrell [online]. This paper was developed by a student taking a Philanthropic Studies course taught at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. Mary Eliza Church Terrell. Grade Level:. Social activist and early feminist who advocated for women's suffrage and civil rights for African Americans. Importance We have become National, because from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Maine to the Gulf, we wish to set in motion influences that shall stop the ravages made by practices that sap our strength, and preclude the possibility of advancement… We call ourselves an Association to ify that we have ed hands one with the other, to work together in a common cause.

Jones, 24 An active and dynamic lecturer, Terrell was sometimes amazed at the opportunities she was afforded. Ties to the Philanthropic Sector Mary Church Terrell spent her adult life working to advance the rights of, primarily, African American women. Related Resources.

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Ida B. Suffrage Movement. African American Sororities. Logo Green 23B67E. About Philanthropy. Yellow F2DB5B. What's Trending.

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Mary Eliza Church Terrell