Mary Church Terrell
Mary Church Terrell was a charter member of the NAACP and the first president of the NACW. She was earned her master’s degree in education and taught at two schools. Her career in activism sparked when one of her friends was lynched, and she joined Ida B. Wells in fighting mob violence. Terrell focused on “racial uplift” to resolve anti-black violence, similarly to DuBois, which was the idea that if the race as a whole improved their social standing, education, and work ethic, then they would garner more respect. She also believed that the success of one black person positively reflected on their race as a whole. She joined the Colored Women’s League to help educated black women “lift” themselves outside of a church setting. Additionally, Terrell helped end segregation in dining facilities and largely contributed to the precedent set for Brown v. Board of Education through her activism.
Ida B. Wells
Born into slavery, Ida B. Wells was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. Wells merged the concepts of racial uplift and religion into her activism. She believed that it was immoral for any Christian to deny civil rights to black people, because justice of all forms is intrinsic to Christian ideals. Wells was a journalist that could not and would not be silenced despite numerous threats and endless persecution. She also worked as a teacher in a segregated school, but after she publicly criticized the condition of the school, she was fired. After publishing an article against lynching, she was purged from Memphis by a mob that destroyed her property and she was “recommended” to find exile. She moved to Chicago, married a famous activist lawyer, and ran her own newspaper in which she could publish as she pleased. Wells was also a founding member of the NAACP, but unlike Terrell, she is not credited as a chartering member, despite having been there at the time. She eventually cut ties with the NAACP because she felt it was not rooted enough in action-based resolutions. Wells used her position as a journalist as an outlet for her activism, writing to critique the World’s Columbian Exposition and lynchings, among other topics. She led a protest at the White House for anti-lynching.
Both women, while advocating racial uplift and anti-lynching campaigns, also contributed to the suffragette movement on the behalf of all women. They strived to make the movement intersectional and called upon women whose activism only favored themselves and provoked them to consider the larger picture.