Mary Church Terrell

Civil and Women’s Rights Activist Mary Church Terrell Featured in Butler Founder’s Week and Black History Month Exhibition

INDIANAPOLIS – As part of Butler University’s celebration of its 1855 founding on the principles of diversity, equality and inclusion, Butler’s Irwin Library will host a traveling exhibit from Oberlin College highlighting the work of educator, author, lecturer, suffragist, and civil rights leader Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954).

The exhibit will be on display beginning February 5 during regular library hours. It is free and open to the public. For more information, call Information Commons at Butler’s Irwin Library at 317-940-9227, or visit Oberlin’s Mary Church Terrell digital exhibit.

Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954)

The daughter of slaves, Terrell graduated from Oberlin with a bachelor’s degree in 1884 and a master’s in 1888. In 1892, after learning that a close friend from Memphis had been lynched, Terrell became a social activist. She helped form the Colored Women’s League in Washington to address social problems facing black communities, and she also became the first president of the National Association of Colored Women, which she helped create.

In 1909, Terrell signed the charter that established the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People (NAACP). In 1910, she became one of the founders of the College Alumnae Club, which was later named the National Association of University Women (NAUW). She wrote articles, poems, and short stories about race and gender. In 1940 she published her autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World, detailing her experiences with gender and race discrimination in the United States.

Biographical banners, documents and photographs featured in the exhibit “Mary Church Terrell: An Original Oberlin Activist A traveling exhibition of the Oberlin College Libraries” highlight Terrell’s achievements in learning, labor, leadership, and legacy. The exhibit also documents sobering racial inequalities faced by African-Americans throughout the 20th century. Terrell’s papers are housed in the Oberlin College Archives.

The exhibit is part of Founders Week 2019 and Black History Month. Founder’s Week celebrates the values of Ovid Butler, an Indianapolis lawyer, philanthropist, active supporter of the antislavery movement, and founder of North Western Christian University, which became Butler University.

The university admitted women and people of color on an equal basis with white males, a radical stance for the time. The first woman to graduate from the full four-year program was Demia Butler, Ovid Butler’s daughter, who graduated in 1862. Butler’s first documented African-American graduate was Gertrude Amelia Mahorney, who graduated in 1887.

About Butler University –Butler is a nationally recognized comprehensive university encompassing five colleges—Arts, Communication, Education, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Pharmacy and Health Sciences—and the Andre B. Lacy School of Business. Together, they offer more than 65 undergraduate areas of study, six pre-professional programs, 20 graduate programs, and nine non-degree programs and certificates. Around 4,400 undergraduate students are enrolled at Butler, representing 48 states and 34 countries. Butler students have extraordinary opportunity to participate in some form of internship, student teaching, clinical rotation, research, or service learning by the time they graduate, which prepares them for their careers. This community-centered immersion is coupled with classroom learning that nurtures critical thinking, effective communication, cooperative teamwork, and ethical decision making to prepare students for both professional success and to have lasting impact in their communities.

About Brian Scott

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