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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