- Series: Classics in Black Studies
- Paperback: 487 pages
- Publisher: Humanity Books (June 3, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 159102322X
- ISBN-13: 978-1591023227
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #471,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
A Colored Woman In A White World (Classics in Black Studies) Paperback – June 3, 2005
|New from||Used from|
See the Best Books of 2017 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
About the Author
Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) was a civil rights activist and teacher who was one of the first African-American women to graduate from Oberlin College, earning both a bachelor's and master's degrees. She was also one of the original members of the NAACP. Terrell was the author of A Colored Woman in a White World, Peonage in the United States: The Convict Lease System and the Chain Gangs and A Plea for the White South by a Colored Woman.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top customer reviews
This book review is about a autobiography written by Mrs. Mary Church Terrell, a very intelligent public speaker, writer, community activist, educator, and journalist. She is well known for leading a tremendous three year effort in Washington, D.C. in order to end racial segregation for public eating areas. In this self analysis the reader is taken on a journey towards Mrs. Terrell's destiny as a leader. This writing has proven to be inspiring for any reader no matter their race, culture, age, and gender. Mrs. Terrell's writing of this book has been successful (1) in generating sentiment in support of the African American race and (2) in acquainting the public with facts about race discrimination and women's rights. She plays a part in various well known historical events and in supporting the works of some famous leaders. I, myself, view Mrs. Terrell's writings within this story as humble, honest, and encouraging. Also, I found Mrs. Terrell's tone within her journal to be very guarded in her feelings, and she maintained a contemplative, unexcited tone throughout the entire text. Within this book review, however, examines her book, A Colored Woman in a White World, which journals her life as an outspoken woman ahead of her time.
Keywords: community activist, journalist, racial segregation, race discrimination, women's
In 1940 the autobiography entitled A Colored Woman in a White World was published by its author Mrs. Mary Church Terrell. It is the first completed and circulated autobiography by an African American woman. Mrs. Terrell was a well-educated black American woman and graduate of Oberlin college who had spent most of her life writing poetry, speeches, editorials, and other forms of public writings. Therefore, writing a truthful account of her own remarkable life has proven to come naturally within her own autobiography. "In this work, she traced her life from early childhood days, emphasizing her experiences growing up and living in white dominated America" (Terrell 18). In her introduction, which in my opinion is one of the two few times where the author gives the reader the passion and zeal behind her voice, Mary church Terrell talks about her goal within the narrative for being honest, objective, and grateful for an enriched life. The very first sentence of the story has voice transformed from genteel to militant. Its revolutionary tone remind me of lines from a 1960s Black Literary Renaissance poem about power, gender, and the black perspective. She states, "This is the story of a colored woman living in a white world" ( 29). Her own introduction prepares the reader for a description of a life filled with love, obstacles, and amazing accomplishments; she instructs the reader that any woman, especially a woman of color in America, can do the following:
"....achieve in spite of the difficulties by which race prejudice blocks her path
if she fits herself to do a certain thing, works with all her might and main do it
and is given a chance" (Terrell 30)
The next few chapters of her book begin with explaining the exceptional lifestyle she lived as a young black girl from Memphis, Tennessee up to her adult years as an outspoken advocate for women and children. She proceeds with her story by describing her father as a former slave with very little education who became a self-made millionaire in the late 1870s during Mary`s youth
(Terrell 69). She received a private, classical education and she was accepted to college at Oberlin (71). Mary also gives accounts of her travels and career opportunities as a young woman. She taught at Wilberforce University, was a teacher at M Street High within Washington, D.C., was the first black school board administrator in D.C., and traveled extensively throughout Europe meeting influential and interesting people while speaking French and German (89). Her educational background nurtured her writing and public speaking talents, and which in turn led to her growing interest in working with women by serving social clubs and associations. Her first speaking engagements after college were with women suffrage groups, such as the National Woman Suffrage Association, which is where she met with several other important activists, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass, and Miss Susan B. Anthony (180). After she is married to a Harvard graduate, she gives the readers what I refer to as her second deep, sensitive moment of the story. She describes how painful it felt to lose three babies in the hospitals of her time. The following is an excerpt of her feelings:
"When my third baby died two days after birth, I literally sank down into the
depths of despair. For months I could not divert my thoughts from the tragedy,
however hard I tried. It was impossible for me to read understandingly or to fix
my mind on anything I saw in print. When I reached the bottom of a page in a
book, I knew no more about its contents than did someone who had never seen it.
Right after its birth the baby had been placed in an improvised incubator,
and I was tormented by the thought that if the genuine article had been used,
its little life might have been spared" (142).
After noticing "how much can be accomplished through organization," she decided to focus
on racial elevation within America by means of even more club work that centered around colored women (185). The National Association of Colored Women (NACW) was founded in 1896 to concentrate on racial troubles through the strengthening of black women. Terrell supported the NACW because she believed in black self help. Progressive institutions were established (such as Mothers Clubs, day nurseries, and kindergartens) and educational materials about improving family home life and mental/physical development of children (190). In 1901 Terrell moved away from the black self help methodology and began to focus on promoting interracial tolerance. She chose to fight against racial discrimination and to advance the moral principles of the economically underprivileged and of those with little education by advocating for unbiased social and scientific research (231). In my opinion Terrell's newest philosophy seemed to imply that in order to weaken the prevalence of discrimination in America , all black women must be elevated.
The final chapters of her story describe the following: Terrell's return to public speaking internationally regarding the living conditions, abilities, and accomplishments of African Americans of the early twentieth century; her duties as a charter member of the NAACP and as the capitol`s first black school board representative; the beginning of her career as a writer of short stories and articles on racism in America ; the transitioning of her new focus toward race relations and politics as an activist between ages 70s and 80s; and her three year protest in Washington D.C. to end segregation for public dining. Although she lectured extensively at a long list of cities, schools, and other events, I was especially interested in her famous address to the International Congress of Women in the city of Berlin in 1904 (Terrell 244). This conference was special because several prominent and socially active women from around the world came together for several days to have discussions and give speeches about various topics, such as
morality, marriage, a woman's place in society. They later added the topic of women's suffrage (237). The event was always very grand with large orchestras, mansions, banquets, and garden parties. Mrs. Terrell's visit to the women's conference seemed to be the high point of her story because it seems to blend together all the following for her: eloquent speaking talents learned as a small child, positive advice from educators and mentors, the loving spirit and humility that her mother passed on to her, the sacrifice her parents made to allow their fragile little girl to leave them for a rich education, her training in classical languages and debates in college, her realization at age twenty that she was destined for leadership and not laziness, and her drive to be uplifting for her own African American culture. She had finally matured into her position as "The New Woman," a woman who sought employment (during the early 1900s when the idea of a daughter or wife working for money was considered embarrassing) and a woman who had strength, self-reliance, and goals (12). Those before mentioned qualities are why I labeled her as a woman ahead of her time. In this speech she claims to use vivid details to impress upon her audience the long list of contributions that African Americans have made within the Western World, how the struggle for racial equality continues, and how the delegates should never give up on the campaign for women`s suffrage. Yet, to set herself apart from the rest, besides being the only delegate of African descent, she was also the only one to deliver her speech three time that day in English, French, and German languages (241). She was also encouraged by her close friend Mr. W.E.B. Dubois to assist the NAACP by her becoming a charter member (216). Although she declined to ever label herself as a journalist, many other published writings were submitted in her pen name, "Euphemia Kirk." As she discussed her newspaper writings in this book (published in at least nine different newspapers, including the Washington Post) , it seems that creating literature for the papers came easily to her just as public speaking did; she knew that thousands of people would gain knowledge they didn't have before about women and black American's great efforts toward gaining equality (263). Mrs. Terrell can also be described as a tireless social activist because even as a woman in her eighties, she could still be found walking up and down the side walks of the U.S. capitol with picket signs that spoke against race discrimination or in support of other social justice. Yet, her public voice became more radical and aggressive during the Great Depression. She observed the New Deal being implemented within America, but she became aware that African Americans were being treated unfairly (316). The final straw for her was when she watched soldiers come home from the war. She said that after witnessing black soldiers come back home to none of the advantages they fought for overseas, she could do no more speeches in her usual humble, genteel tone. For example, she spoke out openly on why she felt the Convict Lease within American prisons was another form of slavery. Mrs. Terrell saves her best story for last when talks about how one bowl of soup turned into a three year civil rights campaign and legal battle within the city of Washington.
Mrs. Terrell's ambitions did not wane just because she reached her seventies and eighties in age. She and three friends decided to put certain anti-segregation laws that were created (during the time of Reconstruction) to the test one day. She writes about setting up a meeting at a restaurant named Thompson's in Washington D.C. two meet three friends. The four "soldiers for equality" were on a mission. She tries to order a bowl of soup, and is turned away. This is where I, as the reader, anticipate learning about her innermost fears or feelings, such as self doubt or anger. She talks about the hard work and planning that went into this elaborate scheme, but I was disappointed that I missed out on learning more about her passion for the cause. Yet, Mrs. Terrell's focus seems to be more on explaining the mission than the passion behind it. Meanwhile, she and other supporters take their case all the way up to the Supreme Court and obtain victory (Terrell 464). This monumental case (i.e., District of Columbia vs. John Thompson) resulted in the Supreme Court ruling the following: that segregated public restaurants were unconstitutional in 1953. She then makes a humorous statement about not being upset for having to wait three years on her bowl of soup from Thompson`s. This court case was the dramatic beginning of the desegregation of the city of Washington, D.C. and a satisfying ending to Mrs. Terrell's career as an activist (466).
Mrs. Mary Eliza Church Terrell dies on July 24, 1954. Her eldest daughter, Phyllis, did survive the hospital and grew up to help her mother with public protests for women's suffrage. She also had adopted her neice, who was also named Mary. Terrell spent much of her time being a loving mother and wife, but she also worked diligently to increase the rights of mainly African American women. She was personally affected by the discrimination of being a person of color during her childhood, but the stings of injustice was a means to prepare her to be a survivor. She became a hero, a political activist, a lobbyist, a "New Woman,", a public speaker, a teacher, a writer/journalist, and a powerful voice for civil rights advocacy, writing, public speaking, teaching, lobbying, and political activism. She could have adhered to a life of leisure that her father's wealth could have given her, but instead she saw the struggles of her peers and in her community; she wanted to make a difference in their lives. She took great pride in her own works and in the works of those leaders who had "strong African blood" flowing throught their veins. Although I felt her story needed more passion and emotion in its voice, I also feel that her story would be very beneficial to any future student or community advocate learning about social equality in America.