Document 11A: Mary B. Talbert, Letter to State Director, , NAACP Papers, Part 7: The Anti-Lynching Campaign, 1912-1955, Series B: Anti-Lynching Legislative and Publicity Files, 1916-1955, Library of Congress (Microfilm, Reel 3, Frames 550-51).
The following letters were sent by Mary B. Talbert, the National Director of the Anti-Lynching Crusaders, to the organization's State Directors. The letters contained instructions for the Director to follow and Talbert stressed that the Crusaders were to work to unite black and white women against lynching. As Talbert wrote in the first letter, "Let me impress upon you very seriously that the campaign is to be one of prayer and sacrifice absolutely devoid of bitterness and any attempt to stir up friction between the races." Lynching was typically a racialized crime aimed at blacks, usually men, but under the guidance of Talbert the Crusaders emphasized lynching as a crime committed against blacks and whites, men and women (see documents 6 and 7).
521 Michigan Ave., Buffalo, N.Y.
Dear State Director:--
I know that you have been looking for a complete letter of instructions from me. I have been trying to cover every point before writing you which is not a very easy task. In a very few days I will send you for instruction the pamphlets which are to be sent to every key woman and speaker.
Your first duty will be to send me at once the names, state addresses of every key woman in your state or territory. It is perfectly allowable to have more than one key woman in your city or town as this work is to unite all church groups, fraternal groups, labor groups, in fact, we must unite a million women to stop lynching. Let me impress upon you very seriously that the campaign is to be one of prayer and sacrifice absolutely devoid of bitterness and any attempt to stir up friction between races. It is a campaign for the uniting of black and white women North, South, East, and West against the most terrible of all crimes--lynching.
As State Director it has been suggested that your expenses will be taken care of by public collections unless you are able to get public spirited citizens to defray your expenses. No part of the money raised during the campaign must be used for anything except legislation.
Let every key woman in turn gather her a committee of women from fifty to three hundred, these women to commence intensive work Sunday morning October the first at sunrise prayer meeting and ending December the thirty-first. I am enclosing recommendations for local committee work suggested by Miss Jackson which she has worked out very nicely in the east. You can secure your campaign buttons at ten dollars ($10.00) a thousand. They are now ready for distribution. Let every crusader wear her button from October the first to December the thirty-first. You can sell these buttons at ten cents each, cost price, or if you prefer fifteen cents each using the additional nickel for your postage, stationery, etc. I will send you next week a few sheets of official stationery and if you wish to have other stationery let it be in unison with this. You can substitute, however, your name under mine as state director with your street number and address.
I suggest that the enclosed prayer be read every day at noon. If you do not wish to read this prayer you do not have to but let every women know that the rest of the us will be expecting her to be praying every day at noon with us. I shall give this proper publicity through our Colored press and hope to have it printed in the October Crisis.[A]
As soon as you furnish me a list of key women, I will send to them on return mail their letter of instructions, a copy of which I will send to you as state director. September is the month for instruction, October begins our intensive campaign, the second week in October will be known as sacrifice or self-denial week. We urge our women to sacrifice everything that is considered a non-essential such as candy, chewing gum, perfumes, powder, rouge, or anything which costs them during the week a dollar and this sacrifice offering to be sent to the state director, who in turn will remit weekly to our national treasurer. I will send you next week as state director the name of our national treasurer and the trust company, who will hold our money.
The reason why we are asking every state to send the money weekly is because we will need the money for our legislation work. I take cognizance of the fact that different states might have to change their programmes to conform with their localities. The rules set down are not iron-clad. You will be the best judge of how to work in your state. The main object is to get all the women praying together, working together, sacrificing together so that this accursed pastime of mob law and murder may be wiped out of America. None of us are safe so long as this eating cancer is not cut out or burned out in America.
During the campaign we want every woman to talk the same. We are talking about lynching, praying for lynching to stop and indirectly for the passage of the Dyer Anti-lynching Bill. It makes no difference where you live, you cannot possibly fear to engage in a campaign of prayer and self-sacrifice against the most wicked of all crimes.
Literature will be sent you from this office within the next ten days.
Yours for a united sisterhood,
Mary B. Talbert
A. The Crisis was the monthly magazine of the NAACP under the editorship of W.E.B. Du Bois.
Back to Text