Oberlin College Acquires a Collection of Papers of Mary Church Terrell

Mary_church_terrellOberlin College in Ohio has received an archive of documents relating to Mary Church Terrell. The papers were donated by Raymond and Jean Langston, the current occupant of the home in Highland Beach, Maryland, where Terrell died. The collection includes documents, letters, diaries, photographs and other artifacts, some dating to the 1890s and earlier.

Mary Church Terrell was the daughter of former slaves. She was a 1884 graduate of Oberlin College and went on to become a teacher and principal of M Street Colored High School, now known as Dunbar High School. Terrell was the founding president of the National Association of Colored Women and was a charter member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Terrell was the first African American woman to serve on the Washington, D.C. Board of Education.

In 1949, Terrell, then in her 80s, was refused service at a Washington, D.C., restaurant. She filed suit and in a case eventually decided by the Supreme Court, racial segregation of restaurants in the nation’s capital was ruled unconstitutional.

Mary Church Terrell died on July 24, 1954 at the age of 90.


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  1. Brenda Williams says:

    I first became aware of Mary Church Terrell when I became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority in the 1980s….Her story continues to amaze me and I was thrilled to learn that Oberlin College “has received an archive of documents relating to Mary Church Terrell.” On another note, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Ed has been an invaluable resource to me…..I literally look forward to seeing it in my inbox weekly….Keep up the good work and research that you have been known for, consistently, for many many years.

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