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Black History Month: A Look at African American Social Service Pioneers

By / February 7, 2019 / / 0 Comments

This month is Black History Month. To celebrate we are going to share facts about African American Leaders who were integral in providing or creating social services that still serve people today.

  1. Mary Church Terrell (1864-1954)

Born to former slaves, Mary Church Terrell is known best for championing racial discrimination and women’s suffrage in the late 19th and early 20th century. She was one of the first women to earn both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Oberlin College in Ohio. She became an activist in 1892 when a close friend was lynched in Memphis, Tennessee, her hometown.  She joined anti-lynching campaigns and aligned with the belief of  racial uplift or uplifting African Americans to achieve racial equality by advancing members educationally, strategically, and communally.  Her saying  “Lifting as we climb”  became the motto for  the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), which she co-founded in 1896. She also held the position as president of NACW from 1896-1901; as the president, Terrell campaigned among black organizations and mainstream white organizations speaking and writing about racial equality as well as women’s suffrage. She saw women’s suffrage as an equally important topic to campaign  because she saw herself as belonging (in her own words)  “to the only group in this country that has two such huge obstacles to surmount…both sex and race”.  In 1909 Terrell among other members and founders created the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) . IN 1910 she also co-founded the  College Alumni Club later renamed National Association of  University Women. In 1940 she released an autobiography A Colored Women in a White World. 

Source: 1


 2. George Edmund Haynes (1880-1960)

Born in Arkansas 1880, George Edmund Haynes was best known as a social scientist. Haynes attended Agriculture and Mechanical for Negroes in Normal, Alabama; he transferred to Fisk University  in Tennessee where he earned his bachelor’s degree. Later he earned his mater’s degree at Yale Graduate School in 1904.  The following year Haynes began his career working for the Young  Man’s Christian Academy in the African American Men’s Department in Chicago.  He moved to New York and became the first African American to earn a degree from New York School of Philanthropy or present-day Colombia University of Social Work in 1910. Later that year, Haynes helped co-found The National Urban League, the nation’s oldest and largest community based movement devoted to advancing African Americans economically and socially. Today the National Urban League is headquartered in New York City and there are over 100 local affiliates located in 35 states and the District of Colombia. Two years after co-founding the National Urban League, Haynes earned his PhD in Economics from Colombia University. Haynes was hired at Fisk University after he completed his dissertation. He spent the remainder of  his life working directly on Black community issues and eventually became the Secretary first Executive Secretary of the Department of Race Relations for the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America in 1921. For the remainder of his life he conducted surveys researching the link between race and religion and after his retirement in 1947 he continued to do work in similar fields involving race. in 1950 he published a book Africa, the Continent of the Future. 



Source: 1, 2,






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