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African-American Women in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union

Document 6

An African-American activist pointed out racial problems in the organization at the 1893 WCTU national convention:

      The convention was about to vote upon the list when Mrs. Thurber of Jackson County, Michigan, a colored delegate, entered an emphatic protest because colored women had been ignored in the nominations made. She wanted to know if there was a color line in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union work, and remarked that, while all professed to work together irrespective of color, the colored people were ignored in a way that seemed to indicate that the color line was rather sharply drawn. She moved that a department of colored work be established with a colored woman as superintendent. Her remarks were received with some applause from different parts of the house. Mrs. Griffith, of the District of Columbia, thought that to establish a department for colored work would be making the very distinction Mrs. Thurber objected to. Nevertheless, if the colored people wanted a department, she was perfectly willing they should have it. Half a dozen other delegates clamored for recognition, some approving the new bureau, a few opposing it. Finally the previous question was ordered, and when Mrs. Thurber's motion was put to vote it was carried unanimously.

-- Excerpt from "Color Line Visible," Chicago Herald, 22 October 1893

10. What did Thurber mean by the phrase "color line?"

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11. What do you think about Thurber's proposed solution to the problem?

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