Grace Campbell, 1883-1943




Grace Campbell Addressing a Harlem Rally, n.d.
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Grace Campbell, 1883-1943


By Kiera A. Ward, Undergraduate student, State University of New York at Binghamton

Grace Campbell was a political activist who was born in Georgia in 1883. She was the daughter of William Campbell, an immigrant from the British West Indies, and Emma Dyson Campbell of Washington, D.C. Grace had one brother who grew up to be a barber. The Campbell family moved around during Grace's early years, eventually settling in New York in 1905.

As part of her advocacy for women's suffrage, Campbell held membership in the Northeastern Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, an umbrella organization for fifty-five black women's clubs across the region. The federation supported anti-lynching advocacy, the work of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), child welfare, and sent $20 per month to help support Harriet Tubman and her old folks' home in Auburn, New York. The Federation formally adopted a woman suffrage resolution and sought membership in the National American Woman Suffrage Association. NAWSA denied the request for fear of losing the support of southern women. Campbell often spoke at these kinds of meetings and at other political gatherings.

By 1911, Campbell was working for the National League for the Protection of Colored Women (NLPCW), assisting Southern women recently migrated to New York City. She earned $65 a month, meeting migrants at the docks and helping them settle into reputable boarding arrangements and jobs without the interference of unscrupulous employment agents. In addition, her work included serving as a probation officer, assisting recent migrants in the courts. The NLPCW fired Campbell in 1913 following conflicts with League leaders. She immediately secured work as superintendent of the Empire Friendly Shelter, a home for Black delinquent women. In 1917 she was formally appointed as a parole officer for the Parole Commission, while she continued to run the shelter.

Campbell, a socialist, is most well-known for her campaigns for the New York State Assembly in 1919 and 1920, as she became the first woman of color to run for a New York state-level public office. Grace cofounded the 21st Assembly branch of the Socialist Party, and became one of the three first African American members. However, as the Harlem group evolved into the Communist Party she held off joining until 1924. She also served as a court attendant for the Court of Sessions after having been a parole officer and she worked in the Women's Section of the Tombs Prison in New York as Chief Nurse.

In addition to establishing the Socialist Party in Harlem, she founded the People's Educational Forum, an opposition group to Marcus Garvey. Campbell also assisted fellow radicals in founding the African Blood Brotherhood, a secret organization that advocated for equal rights and self-determination. She served on the organization's Supreme Council.

According to Hermie Huiswood, who knew Grace Campbell personally, her home was always open to visitors, and her purse was always open to the needy. She fed whoever was hungry and gave shelter to those who asked. On Saturdays she hosted a group of African Americans of varying political views to discuss social justice issues. Campbell founded the Harlem Community Church alongside political activists Richard B. Moore, Frank Crosswaith, and W.A. Domingo in Harlem, New York in 1920. The name was later changed to the Harlem Unitarian Church. Eventually, Grace became an atheist.

Grace Campbell remained involved in politics and civil service until her death in 1943 at the age of sixty.


Winston James, Holding Aloft the Banner of Ethiopia: Caribbean Radicalism in Early Twentieth Century America (New York: Verso, 1999).

Mark Naison, Communists in Harlem During the Depression (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983).

Cheryl D. Hicks, Talk with You Like a Woman: African American Women, Justice, and Reform in New York, 1890-1935 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010).

Elisabeth Israels Perry, After the Vote: Feminist Politics in La Guardia's New York (New York, Oxford University Press, 2019).

Catherine Roth, "Campbell, Grace P. (1883-1943)." The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed. Accessed online at

Mrs. Booker T. Washington, "Negro Women's Club Work," The Club Woman 10, no. 9 May 1903, 296-297.

New York Age, March 25, 1909, 7.

"Raise Tubman Pension," New York Age, July 25, 1912, 1.

Grace P. Campbell, "Women Offenders and the Day Court," New York Age, April 18, 1925

Grace P. Campbell, "Tragedy of the Colored Girl in Court," New York Age, April 25, 1925.

A search of suggests that there are 101 articles on Grace Campbell for 1905-1943.


Related Writings in Database

View works by

View works about

Related Works in DuBois Online Correspondence: 1

back to top