Mary Church Terrell

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    Image: Library of Congress

    Image: Library of Congress

    Mary Church Terrell was born during the Civil War, right after the Emancipation Proclamation. The daughter of former slaves who became successful entrepreneurs, she grew up in a household where education was of the utmost importance and she was one of the first African American woman to earn a bachelor’s degree. She started as a teacher at Wilberforce University and then at the M Street School in Washington, D.C., the nation’s first black public high school.
    Terrell’s life took a turn when in 1892, a friend was lynched. This strengthened her struggle for African American and women’s rights. She went on to co-found the NAACP in 1909 with W.E.B. Du Bois and other activists. In her 80s, Mary Church Terrell won a lawsuit against a whites-only restaurant, helping to end the Jim Crow laws. Her 1940 autobiography is “A Colored Woman In A White World.” She died in 1954.

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