Elizabeth C. Carter (Brooks)


Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Elizabeth C. Carter Brooks, 1867-1951


By Debra Foster Greene, Ph.D.
Professor of History, Lincoln University, Missouri

Born in 1867 in New Bedford, Massachusetts to Martha Webb, Elizabeth C. Carter Brooks was educated in the public schools of New Bedford, the Harrington Normal School, and the Swain School of Design. In 1900, Carter Brooks became the first black teacher in the New Bedford public school system where she had a distinguished 29-year career. She began teaching in the 1880s at the Howard Colored Orphanage in Brooklyn, New York. In 1918, as architect, she supervised the construction of the Phillis Wheatly Y.W.C.A. in Washington, D.C.

In 1897, Carter Brooks became the first president of the Woman's Loyal Union in New Bedford and remained in the position until 1930. The organization opened the New Bedford Home for the Aged with a personal loan from her. In 1939, Carter Brooks loaned money to the Martha Briggs Educational Club of which she was president to buy the William H. Carney home and turned it into a memorial to honor the hero of the Battle of Fort Wagner. She was a member of the NAACP, founded the New Bedford branch and served as the president of the New England Regional Conference. In 1948, she was awarded president emeritus status for both.

In 1895, Elizabeth Carter Brooks became the first recording secretary of the National Federation of Afro-American Women's Clubs and in 1896 she was among the founding members of the New England Federation of Women's Clubs (changed later to Northeastern Federation of Colored Women's Clubs) (NFCWC) and the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (NACW). Carter Brooks was elected first recording secretary of the NACW and served in that position until 1906 when she was elected vice-president-at-large. Carter Brooks was elected fourth president of the NACW and served from 1908 until 1912. As NACW historian, she wrote the first historical account of the NAWC's founding. At the 1914 NACW convention, Carter Brooks, representing the NFCWC, proposed the establishment of a boycott department for NACW to institute boycotts to fight discrimination where protests failed. Carter Brooks' distinguished career was recognized by Wilberforce University with an honorary Doctor of Law degree on June 14, 1934.

As president of the NFCWC, Carter Brooks petitioned the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1919 for cooperative membership but was refused. In 1922, she led a delegation of the NFCWC to urge Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts to pass the Dyer antilynching bill. Carter Brooks was part of an executive committee of 15 black women who supervised over 700 state activists across the nation in the antilynching crusade with a goal to unite a million women to stop lynching.

In 1930, at age 63, Carter Brook married African Methodist Episcopal Bishop William Sampson Brooks. She moved with him to San Antonio, Texas where he had been assigned in 1928. Bishop Brooks died shortly after the marriage in 1934. Carter Brooks died in New Bedford in 1951 at age 84. In 1957, a school in New Bedford was named in her honor. At the end of her life, Carter Brooks was characterized as "a woman of good deeds."


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