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February 7th, 2024- The First National Conference of the Colored Women of America (August 1895) #VRABlackHistory 2024

February 7 @ 12:00 am

Feb. 7th, 2024- The First National Conference of the Colored Women of America (August 1895) #VRABlackHistory 2024


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We hope you enjoy our #VRABlackHistory Series 2024

From the Transformative Justice Coalition and the Voting Rights Alliance

Please note, if you’d like to opt out from only the upcoming daily Black History Month Voting Rights Alliance #VRABlackHistory series, please email carnwine@tjcoalition.org. Unsubscribing at the bottom of this email unsubscribes you to all Transformers, not just from this special February Series.

The First National Conference of the Colored Women of America (August 1895)

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The Transformative Justice Coalition and the Voting Rights Alliance, in honor of Black History Month, are reviving the daily special series devoted to sharing the legacies and stories of the sheroes, heroes, and events in the fight for Black suffrage. This series was created in 2017 and will add 13 NEW articles this year. In addition to these daily newsletters all February long, this series also incorporates daily social media posts; an interactive calendar; and, website blog posts to spread the word broadly.

Feel free to publish on your social media outlets, with credit given to the Transformative Justice Coalition. If you’d like us to share you sharing this series, be sure to send any publications to carnwine@tjcoalition.org so we can repost!

We encourage everyone to share this series to your networks and on social media under the hashtag #VRABlackHistory and to use this series for school projects. You can also tweet us @TJC_DC to share your own facts.

Others can sign up for the daily articles at VotingRightsAlliance.org

Reporting by Caitlyn Arnwine (formerly Caitlyn Cobb). Written in 2020. A reference list can be found at the bottom of the article.

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Today, February 7th, 2024, we honor the First National Conference of the Colored Women of America. Earlier, we focused on George H, White, the unsung hero who was the last of the Reconstruction Era Black Congressmen. He detailed brutal racial voter suppression that destroyed the Black vote. It would be another 91 years before another Black North Carolina Congressperson. One of the other articles this month took a look at the Black massacres that occurred after the 1860’s, many of which were over voting. While many more massacres occurred after 1880’s, the extreme concentration of Black massacres during this time period were specifically targeted against Black men exerting their right to vote under 15th amendment. Despite the horror that that article showed, I purposefully have inserted this article, just as George H. White and Ida B. Wells, to honor the wins of Black men and women during this time.

Held in August 1895 in Boston, Massachusetts, representatives from 42 African-American women’s clubs gathered at this three-day organizing and strategy conference, the first of its kind in the United States. The goal of the conference was to create a national organization for Black women after Black women expressed via poll responses the need for such an organization in the early 1890’s. The final tipping point was in 1895 when “an obscure Missouri journalist named John Jacks sent a letter to the secretary of the British Anti-Slavery Society, Florence Belgarnie. In the letter, Jacks criticized the anti-lynching work of Ida B. Wells, and wrote that black women had ‘no sense of virtue’ and were ‘altogether without character’…

Soon after, [Boston activist Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin] organized a national conference in Boston, and asked clubs to send delegates. The first day was to be devoted to the business of organizing, and the second and third to ‘vital questions concerning our moral, mental, physical and financial growth and well-being.’ In the call, Ruffin explained the choice of venue: ‘Boston has been selected as a meeting place because it has seemed to be the general opinion that here, and here only, can be found the atmosphere which would best interpret and represent us, our position, our needs, and our aims.'” (Revolvy, N.D.b)

Josephine Ruffin was a civil rights leader and suffragist. She founded the Woman’s Era Club, an advocacy group for black women and the first Black women’s club in Boston. (Revolvy, N.D.b)

Click here to read Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin’s address to the Fist National Conference of Colored Women
“Margaret Murray Washington, the wife of Booker T. Washington, gave an influential speech titled ‘Individual Work for Moral Elevation’. African-American women, she said, were divided into two classes: those who ‘had the opportunity to improve and develop mentally, physically, morally, spiritually and financially’ and those who had been deprived of that opportunity by slavery. She urged members of the former class to do all they could to uplift and inspire the latter, reasoning that individual success was not enough; that only by ‘lifting as we climb’ was it possible for the race to make progress.

Ella L. Smith, the first African-American woman to receive an M.A. degree from Wellesley College, spoke about the need for higher education. Noted scholar Anna J. Cooper spoke about the need to organize. In “The Value of Race Literature”, author and former slave Victoria Earle Matthews stressed the importance of collecting literature by and about African Americans. Agnes Jones Adams gave a speech titled ‘Social Purity’ in which she asserted that being white was not a ‘criterion for being American”. Civil rights leader T. Thomas Fortune and social reformers Henry B. Blackwell and William Lloyd Garrison spoke about political equality. Helen Appo Cook, president of the National League of Colored Women, read a paper on ‘The Ideal National Union’. Alexander Crummell, Anna Sprague (the daughter of Frederick Douglass), and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells also spoke. Other club women gave speeches on justice, temperance, and the need for industrial training.” (Revolvy, N.D.b)

The Conference also included singing and poetry, and was held every two years. “The National Federation of Afro-American Women, which became the National Association of Colored Women the following year, was organized during the conference” (Revolvy, N.D.b).

Click here to read more about the First National Conference of the Colored Women of America
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Ault, A. (2019, April 9). How women got the vote is a far more complex story than the history textbooks reveal. Smithsonianmag.com. Retrieved from: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/how-women-got-vote-far-more-complex-story-history-textbooks-reveal-180971869/

BlackPast. (2007, January 29). (1895) Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, “address to The First National Conference of Colored Women”.  Blackpast.org. Retrieved from: https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/1895-josephine-st-pierre-ruffin-address-first-national-conference-colored-women/

Opinde, W. (2019, June 28). The First National Conference of the Colored Women of America. Blackthen.com. Retrieved from: https://blackthen.com/first-national-conference-colored-women-america/

Revolvy. (N.D.). National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. Revolvy.com. Retrieved from: https://www.revolvy.com/page/National-Association-of-Colored-Women%27s-Clubs?cr=1

Revolvy. (N.D.b). First National Conference of the Colored Women of America. Revolvy.com. Retrieved from: https://www.revolvy.com/page/First-National-Conference-of-the-Colored-Women-of-America?cr=1


February 7
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