Upload new images. The image library for this site will open in a new window.
Upload new documents. The document library for this site will open in a new window.
Show web part zones on the page. Web parts can be added to display dynamic content such as calendars or photo galleries.
Choose between different arrangements of page sections. Page layouts can be changed even after content has been added.
Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.
Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.
Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.
Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.
Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.
Cycle through size options for this image or video.
Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.
Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.
Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.
Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.
Remove the video from the media panel.
Alison Parker's new book tells the story of pioneering suffragist and civil rights activist Mary Church Terrell.
University of Delaware historian Alison Parker was researching activists
of the 19th century for a book she wrote in 2010 on women’s political
thought, she couldn’t believe that there was no biography of one of the
most exceptional of those activists—Mary Church Terrell.
“I was really intrigued by her story, and amazed that no one had
written it,” said Parker, who is Richards Professor of American History
and chair of UD’s history department. “The first leader of a national
Black organization, the National Association of Colored Women, and a
co-founder of the NAACP, credited with establishing Black History Day to
commemorate Frederick Douglass … she was a civil rights activist her
Once Parker finished her book on women’s political thought, she began focusing on Terrell. The result is a new book, Unceasing Militant: The Life of Mary Church Terrell, published this month by the University of North Carolina Press.
Parker connected with descendants of Terrell, who showed her items
that had belonged to her and had been kept in a storage locker. They
provided a wealth of information about Terrell’s remarkable life,
including letters and diaries never before studied by historians. Parker
also helped Terrell’s family arrange for the donation of her
possessions to the National Museum of African American History and
Culture. In addition, Oberlin College has accepted Terrell’s papers for
its archives and is planning a digital history project.
“Unlike research topics where you worry about a lack of material, in
this case, there’s almost too much material—she saved every scrap of
paper,” Parker said of Terrell. “She had an awareness of history, and
she knew that she had a story to tell.”
And it’s quite a story. Born into slavery in Tennessee during the
Civil war, Terrell had two white grandfathers, and those biological ties
meant that her family was better positioned economically when slavery
ended, Parker said.
Her father, Robert Church, owned a saloon and became wealthy after
buying up properties that white owners abandoned in Memphis when they
fled the city during the 1878 yellow fever epidemic. He used his money
to build up a neighborhood known as Beale Street, the birthplace of the
blues, and was known as the first Black millionaire in the South.
Terrell’s mother owned a hair salon whose customers were white women.
Terrell’s life was filled with pioneering accomplishments. She earned
a four-year degree at Oberlin College—a program known as a “gentleman’s
course” because most women pursued two-year degrees—and became a
teacher in Washington, D.C. She became an anti-lynching activist and in
1896 was the first president of the new National Association of Colored
Women’s Clubs, which focused on suffrage and civil rights, making her
the first leader of any national Black organization.
“Her life gives a fascinating window into the way affluent African
Americans used their resources to take on activist causes,” Parker said.
Parker’s work on Terrell, who was a suffragist who picketed the White
House with the National Woman’s Party, has gained attention, especially
as America marked two milestone anniversaries in 2020, the centennial
of the 19th Amendment allowing certain women the vote, and the 150th
anniversary of the 15th Amendment, allowing non-white men the vote.
Although the coronavirus pandemic has limited the kinds of in-person
lectures and events in which Parker was often participating, she said
interest in Terrell has remained high. Her research has always focused
on the intersection of race and gender, and Terrell’s life and work
provide an important example of that, she said. Terrell is being
inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in a virtual event on
Dec. 10, with Angela Davis serving as master of ceremonies.
In a review of Unceasing Militant, historian Anastasia Curwood
called the book “a wonderful biography of a foundational figure in the
history of U.S. civil rights.”
Article by Ann Manser
Published Dec. 2, 2020
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.