The Life of Mary Church Terrell

You come from a wealthy background. Money and a good education have always been familiar to you.

The twist is that you are a special case. The majority of your own ethnicity could not be further from prosperity and schooling.

You have the task of choosing to continue life happily ever after as is, or deciding to fulfill a very difficult obligation to the progression of your people as a whole.

Mary Church Terrell took what some would call the hard route. She sacrificed herself for the greater good of our people.

As a teenager, the Tennessee native moved to Ohio for primary education.

She then pursued a higher education at both Oberlin and Antioch College. She graduated in 1884.

With her established background in the field, she began to teach at Wilberforce University in Ohio.

Her teaching career soon brought her to the M Street School for Colored where she met husband, Robert Terrell, another noted figure in black history.

At this particular time, the state of the struggle was severe. Black men and women used organizational vehicles in a desperate attempt to move the race forward, such as The Women’s Club who used their platforms to push for women and race issues.

Mary Church Terrell shared her educational expertise with the Colored Women’s League by teaching English and German.

She had a very active role in her community and maintained a stance on enlistment through her entire career.

These efforts led to her tenure as the first president of the National Association of Colored Women on July 21, 1896. Her reign as its leader gave NACW its validity and strength.

Terrell assertively advocated for the progress of black women. She believed the fate of the race rested on the power of the female and her ability to carry the family.

Although this sounded like a wonderful idea to the oppressed, others on the opposite side of the fence had different feelings.

This was a national organization run by a person who was black and a woman. This was something new, and with most things that are new, it took some hard hits.

But like the chief that many thought she was, Terrell pressed on.

With her leadership, the NACW provided a communication network for black women. It promoted training, developing, and management proficiency.

The ideals and standards implemented here had the power to change the social and economic make-up of black people in America.

Although these changes were drastic considering the time, her fundamental values were still considered traditional and conventional. She campaigned for women to be better wives, cooks, maids and mothers.

She believed that that in itself would make for an improved race. To further endorse her agenda, she came up with a newsletter and organized tours in areas she knew were highly populated, so that she could easily communicate her message.

On these tours, she emphasized topics of her favor. They included the importance of education and exposure to the arts.

Black women around the country became engrossed in her eloquence and beliefs. They followed her teachings and joined her various clubs and programs.

Mary Church Terrell proved time and time again that she was a force to be reckoned with.

Her faith and her drive were ingredients to her unparalleled success.

Some people talk about making a difference. She did.

Back in Black is a weekly submission from the 2005-2006 Miss FAMU Kimberly Brown, on behalf of the Royal Court. These profiles of unsung black history heroes are made available in an effort to increase knowledge of our past in order to preserve our future.

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