The National Association of Advancement for Colored People (NAACP) has, over the years, been at the forefront of the fight to make people of colour enjoy equal rights and opportunities as they navigate life in America.
But before the NAACP, there was an organisation known as the Niagara Movement, which is considered a pre-cursor to the former.
The Niagara Movement was established by renowned civil rights activists, W.E.B Dubois, John Hope, Monroe Trotter, Frederick McGhee, C. E. Bentley, and 27 others. Such a movement would not have been possible if not for the contribution of Mary Burnett Talbert, who secretly hosted them in her home in 1905.
Talbert, born in 1866, was an orator, activist, and suffragist. She made history as the only black woman to graduate in her class in Oberlin College in 1886 and as the first African-American woman to become an assistant principal in Little Rock, Arkansas.
She made her mark in American history at the turn of the 20th Century for challenging an all-white board at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo and calling for the appointment of a black member into the board. She also called for an exhibit showcasing the life of African Americans.
Talbert, often referred to as “the best-known colored woman in the United States”, used her privilege and status in society to advance the rights of black men and women in America at the time.
She is noted for being the founding member of the Phyllis Wheatley Club, which was affiliated to the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACW). She was voted the president of the club and transformed the organisation’s structure and made a national institution.
Talbert also saved the original home in Anacostia, D.C. of abolitionist and statesman, Fredrick Douglass after several attempts failed.
She was also a huge supporter of the anti-lynching bill by Missouri Congressman Leonidas Dyer and was made the chair of the NAACP Anti-Lynching Committee.
Among her accolades is her fight for women suffrage. All through her life and career, she advocated for the rights of women and developed women leadership at all levels.
Her contribution to the welfare of African Americans has been immortalised in different ways. She became the first black woman to be awarded the NAACP Springarn Award in 1922. A number of the NAWC clubs across the country are named after her and she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in New York in 2005.