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Mary Church Terrell


Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and educated in Ohio and, later, in Europe. She graduated from Oberlin College in 1884 (later completing a master's degree), and taught at a college in Ohio and at a high school in Washington, DC. Leaving the field of education after her marriage in 1891, Terrell re-entered public life after a close friend in Memphis was lynched. Together with Frederick Douglass, Terrell met with President Harrison to urge his condemnation of racial violence; the president made no public statement on the issue. Terrell used her three-term presidency, which began in 1896, of the National Association of Colored Women to fight for equal rights for women, especially African Americans, and to promote women's suffrage. The District of Columbia appointed Terrell to its school board in 1895, and she served for a total of 12 years. As part of a group protesting segregation in Washington, DC, Terrell won a lawsuit against the District in 1953 that set in motion the desegregation of the capitol.
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