Mary Church Terrell was born in 1863 to former slaves who became successful business owners. Tragedy sparked Terrell’s interest in activism. After a close friend was lynched by a white mob, she joined anti-lynching campaigns, working alongside Ida B. Wells, and began her lifelong crusade for racial equality. She helped found the National Association of Colored Women, writing and lecturing about racial discrimination, with the belief that equal opportunities would help elevate the entire race.
She embraced women’s suffrage, picketing the White House alongside members of the National Woman’s Party, and remained politically active into her eighties. Her autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World, was published in 1940, detailing her experiences with discrimination.
About the Narrator:
Historian & Author
Martha Jones, JD, PhD, is a legal and cultural historian whose work explores American democracy and how African Americans have helped shape it.
She has written three books, including a history of African American women’s politics to be released in September of 2020, titled Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All. She said of Terrell, who is featured in her book, “She is someone who was unbowed. She had confronted racism and brutality her entire life but maintained a spirit and fierceness and commitment that I really admire. She was prepared to confront others, both with words and with more when she needed to, especially when she understood herself or African American women to be under assault.”
Jones currently serves as the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor, Professor of History at The Johns Hopkins University, and is Co-president of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians.