February 12 - Happy Birthday, Fannie Barrier Williams

Posted on February 12, 2019

Yet another amazing African American woman?

You betcha!

Fannie Barrier Williams was born on this date in 1855. Both of her parents were born in the North, apparently born free, and Barrier Williams was brought up in Brockport, New York. Even though her family was the only black family in their church congregation and maybe school and community, Barrier Williams said that their white neighbors were accepting and friendly.

It was after she grew up, and she moved away from Brockport and began to teach elsewhere, that Barrier Williams first experienced and saw racism and unfair treatment of black women. I wonder if the fact that she knew it could be different, and better, was part of the reason that Barrier Williams became fired up to make changes. 

Whatever the cause, she was an activist her whole life.

In addition to being an educator, Barrier Williams organized groups for African American voters and got involved with the women's suffrage movement. She helped found the National League of Colored Women and the National Association of Colored Women and the NAACP and Provident hospital (an interracial medical facility and school to train nurses) and Frederick Douglass Center and the Phillis Wheatley Home for Girls and the National Federation of Afro-American Women and and and...!

Barrier Williams helped to integrate a prestigious women's club and a library board, and she made sure that black people had representation at the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893. She spoke in public, including being asked to eulogize Susan B. Anthony in front of a suffrage convention.

All of this activism and accomplishment promoted the rights of black people, of women, and especially of black women. But it made society better and stronger for EVERYONE!


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