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Phyllis Terrell

Phyllis Terrell

African-American suffragist
Phyllis Terrell
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro African-American suffragist
A.K.A. Phyllis Terrell Langston, Phyllis Terrell Goines Parks Langston, Phyll...
Was Suffrage activist Activist Suffragist Teacher
From United States of America
Type Academia Activism
Gender female
Birth 2 April 1898, Washington, D.C., USA
Death August 1989 (aged 91 years)
Star sign AriesAries
Mother: Mary Church Terrell
The details


Phyllis Terrell (April 2, 1898 - August 1989) was a suffragist and civil rights activist. She worked alongside her mother, Mary Church Terrell, in the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs and the White House pickets during demonstrations made by the National Woman's Party. Phyllis died in August 1989.


Phyllis, along with her mother, picketed the White House during the National Woman's Party demonstrations that called on President Woodrow Wilson to support a federal woman suffrage amendment. She and her mother received pins commemorating their participation in the White House protest in 1921. In August 1939, Phyllis along with her mother Mary, visited San Francisco and Oakland on a tour of California. While there Phyllis visited the home of Irene Belle Ruggles, the president of the California Association of Colored Women and The Association of Colored Women of San Francisco, and listened to her mother give a speech commending the hospitable people they met on their trip and the glories of Treasure Island. She became the postmaster for new generations of suffragists and civil rights organizations. She also assisted historians and scholars regarding the plight of African Americans and worked closely with National Association of Colored Women's Clubs. Phyllis Terrell watched the launching of a ship with Harriet Tubman's name in 1944 with a group of women from the National Council of Negro Women.

The National Association of Colored Women, or NAWC, was founded in 1896 by black reformers like Sojourner Truth, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and Harriet Tubman. These women were often excluded from organizations, so they created the NACW to empower women like themselves. It eventually became the largest federation of local black women's clubs and Mary Church Terrell, Phyllis’s mother became the first president. The NACW advocated to improve the lives of African Americans. Their motto was “Lifting as We Climb” which embodied their mission of advocating for women’s rights along with improving the status of African Americans.

Fredrick Douglass Home

In 1962, she succeeded in getting the Frederick Douglass Home declared a National Shrine by an Act of Congress. She and Fredrick Douglass were neighbors and lived in Highland Beach, on Chesapeake Bay. Highland Beach was beach community for African Americans established by one of Frederick Douglass's sons, Charles Douglass. Highland Beach was the destination of educator Booker T. Washington; poets Langston Hughes and Paul Laurence Dunbar, and generations of Douglasses.

1919 Letter from Phyllis Terrell to mother Mary Church Terrell


Phyllis attended the best schools in the northern United States and graduated from Wilberforce University, a historic black university, before becoming a teacher.

While a senior student at Howard University College of Music, Phyllis was assigned to conduct piano classes in the absence of the professor. She was one of the most promising students in the College of Music, commended for her natural talent at playing piano.

Personal life

Phyllis Terrell was born on April 2, 1898 in Washington DC. Her parents were Mary Church Terrell and Robert H. Terrell. Her father was the first Black municipal court judge in D.C., and was appointed by Presidents Taft, Roosevelt, and Wilson. She was named after Phyllis Wheatley, an American poet, and had an adopted sister, Mary.

Phyllis married first Lieutenant William C. Goines and then later Lathall DeWitt Langston. Her mother, Mary Church Terrell was the president of the National Association of Colored Women which exposed Phyllis Terrell to a lot involving rights for women and races. Seeing her mother's work, prompted Phyllis to join the National Association of Colored Women. Phyllis and her mother, Mary, kept in contact through letters where Phyllis addressed her mother as "My dearest mother," and signed the letters "Your little daughter, Phyllis" or "Lovingly, Phippie" for almost 40 years.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 22 Feb 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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