Mary Church Terrell

Mary Eliza Church Terrell
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs

Mary Eliza Church Terrell


  • Civil rights and women's rights activist
  • Born in Memphis, TN
  • Terrell's parents were ex-slaves who later became wealthy
  • Attended Oberlin College in Ohio, earning a bachelor's degree in 1884 and a master's degree in 1888
  • Became active in the suffragist movement, founding the Colored Women's League in 1892
  • In 1896 the Colored Women's League merged with the National Federation of Afro-American Women to become the National Federation of Colored Women
  • Church Terrell was the first president of the National Federation of Colored Women
  • In 1895 she became the first African-American woman appointed to the District of Columbia Board of Education
  • A charter member of the NAACP, she was a popular lecturer on equal rights for women and blacks
  • She served as a delegate at various international women's rights congresses and a prolific writer on social issues
  • She received honorary doctorates from Howard University, Wilberforce College, and Oberlin College

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