Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary was born to slaves and had siblings born as slaves. She was able to attend a black one room school and then college, due to benefactors.

She then started a school for African American girls which later became Bethune- Cookman University. Mary also founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935, and was President or leader of many African American organizations.

She opened a library, public beach, and a hospital for African Americans in Daytona Beach, FL. Hospitals were not integrated till the 1960’s.

Mary was also appointed national advisor to President Franklin D Roosevelt.

She was known by the Black press as the “ female Booker T. Washington” for her commitment to gain better lives for African Americans.

A quote from Mary McLeod Bethune: “ I had faith in a loving God, faith in myself, and a desire to serve.”


Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
(b. 1824 - d. 1911

Frances Harper was a household name in the nineteenth century due to her efforts as an abolitionist, suffragist, and reformer. She was a cofounder of the Colored Women’s Clubs. She was the first African American Woman to published a short story. Her writings included poetry. She was a well known lecturer.Frances was born in Baltimore to free African American parents. Unfortunately her parents died by the time she was three years of age. Her aunt and uncle, Henrietta and William Watkins, raised and educated her. The passions of her uncle as an abolitionist, organizer of a black literary society and founder of his own school for Negro children profoundly influenced Frances work in later years.Frances worked as a teacher in Ohio and York, PA. She was unable to enter the state of Maryland where she was born since it had passed a law that free African Americans living in the North could not return to the state of Maryland. If they did return and were found, they would be imprisoned and sold into slavery.She dedicated her life to the anti-slavery cause. She traveled as a lecturer, hired by the Pennsylvania Anti-slavery Society. Frances W. Harper died in 1912. She was buried in the Eden Cemetery in Collingwood, Delaware County.

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Mary Church Terrell
(b. 1863 - d. 1954

 A civil rights advocate and suffragette, Mary Terrell was one of the first African American women to graduate from college.  She earned both. bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Oberlin. 


Terrell advocated for black women’s suffrage, working with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton through the National American Woman Suffrage Association.  


She was a charter member of the NAACP and was instrumental in fighting for civil rights and women’s rights, including integrating the American Association of University Women and eating places in Washington, DC.  


Learn more here.


Sojourner Truth
(b. 1797 - d. 1883

She was born into slavery as Isabella Baumfree in 1797 in Swartekill, NY, owned by the Hardenbergh family who were Dutch. When Charles Hardenbergh died in 1806, nine year old Isabella who only spoke Dutch was sold to John Neely who beat her daily. In 1808 Neely sold her to John Dumont of West Park, New York. John Dumont raped her repeatedly and was the father of her second child, Diana. She had five children in all, most fathered by her husband Thomas. In July of 1827, the state of New York abolished slavery but Isabella escaped to freedom with her infant daughter Sophia in 1826, leaving her other children behind. She found her way to the home of Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen and they took her and her baby in. She learned that her son, Peter, then five years old, had been illegally sold by Dumont and was in Alabama. With the help of the Wagenens, she took the issue to court and, after many months, won her case, making her the first black woman to go to court against a white man and win.


Around 1828-1829 Isabella had a life-changing religious experience and became a devout Christian. In 1843 she changed her name to Sojourner Truth. “She chose the name because she heard the Spirit of God calling her to preach the Truth.” She traveled all over the north preaching about the abolition of slavery. In 1844 Truth delivered her first anti-slavery speech after joining the Northampton Association of Education and Industry. This organization supported women’s rights and religious tolerance as well as pacifism. While there, Truth met William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass. 


In 1850 Truth started dictating her memoirs to her friend Olive Gilbert, and William Lloyd Garrison privately published her book, "The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: a Northern Slave." Her most famous speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?” was delivered in 1851 in Akron Ohio at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. Truth went on to champion not only a more equal society for African Americans but also for women. During the Civil War, she helped recruit black troops for the Union army and in October of 1865 she met President Abraham Lincoln. Truth died in 1883 and nearly one thousand people attended her funeral. Frederick Douglass offered a eulogy for her in Washington, DC.

All Hands In

Join a Racial Justice Group

You can learn more about the Racial Justice Task Group established by the Presbytery of Donegal, our regional judicatory body. 

Racial Justice in PC(USA)

Read a statement released by the Presbyterian Church (USA), our national denomination, affirming that 'Black Lives Matter.'