Lottie Wilson Jackson

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Charlotte “Lottie” Wilson Jackson, 1854-1914

By Michelle Sibilla, Fiana Arbab, Afaf Humayun, Narmeen Shammami, and Alex Kaniaris
Undergraduates, University of Michigan Dearborn

Charlotte “Lottie” Wilson was born in Niles, Michigan in 1854, the only surviving child of Calvin and Henrietta Wilson. In the 1860 census, Wilson’s parents were both listed as mulatto and her father, who was born in Virginia, made a living as a barber. Lottie Wilson built a career as a respected artist and became an activist for both women’s suffrage and civil rights.

Wilson’s family encouraged formal education and she became the first person of color to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the early 1870s. At the age of 18, Wilson returned to Michigan and married James Huggart, who died only a few years later. Wilson had three children; none of whom survived childhood. She married a second time, at the age of thirty-one, to John Jackson. By 1901, this marriage had ended and Wilson moved to Washington, D.C. to open an art studio where she held art exhibits and taught classes until 1905. Her next move took her to Indiana. In 1906, she married her third husband, Daniel Moss, and the couple relocated to Wilson’s hometown.

A prominent member of the African American community, Wilson belonged to the same social networks and civil rights organizations as W.E.B Du Bois and Mary Church Terrell. Wilson was an active member of National Association of Colored Women (NACW), the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and the Afro-American Council (AAC). Wilson also served for years as a trustee for the Phillis Wheatley Home for Elderly Colored Women in Detroit, Michigan, which provided housing and other services for the African American community. While NAWSA often discouraged women of color from participating, NACW members did attend NAWSA’s conventions. During the 1899 NAWSA meeting, Wilson proposed a resolution challenging Jim Crow segregation: “Colored women ought not to be compelled to ride in smoking cars, and that suitable accommodations should be provided for them.” Some white Southern members took offense, and the meeting quickly became controversial; even Susan B. Anthony raised objections. Wilson’s resolution was quickly tabled, but her actions challenged the predominantly white members to understand that, for African American women, the vote was not a goal in and of itself, but rather a tool they intended to use in pursuit of racial justice.

In addition to her activist work, Wilson became an artist of national repute. She fused her art with politics in a way that brought awareness to the civil rights struggle. Using African Americans as subjects, she drew attention to the past and current plight of African Americans and her work helped encourage a sense of pride within the African American community. She traveled widely and put on exhibits of her work and that of other African American artists. In 1901, Wilson oversaw the exhibition of African American artists at the Pan-American Exposition. In 1902, she painted a replica of a painting of Abraham Lincoln and Sojourner Truth after the original had been lost in a fire. Wilson then presented it to President Theodore Roosevelt, along with a portrait of Phillis Wheatley. Her Lincoln/Truth painting became the first by an African American artist to become part of the White House collection. She also donated other works of art, such as a painting of Booker T. Washington to the Tuskegee Institute. In the NACW, Wilson headed up art exhibits, taught classes, and formed the Art Study Club, of which she was named president. Wilson herself also gave talks before various artists’ clubs. Wilson did not limit herself to one form of art or activism; when asked what inspired her she simply replied “oh, I simply do the thing I feel like doing.”[1]1. “Here and There.” Colored American Magazine, November 1, 1902, p. 53.

After Wilson's move back to Michigan in 1906, she remained socially engaged and occasionally hosted visitors at her home. In 1912 her health began to fail. And on January 16, 1914, Lottie Wilson died at the age of 60 at her childhood home at 299 North Fifth Street in Niles, Michigan. She is buried at Silverbrook Cemetery in Berrien County, with her parents and children.

 

Image Source: Nelson Hill, “Tribute to Lottie Wilson.” Berrien County Genealogy, accessed March 24, 2016. http://berrien.migenweb.net/History_files/LottieWilson.htm.

 

Painting by Lottie Wilson of Sojourner Truth and Abraham Lincoln. Image source: Nelson Hill, “Tribute to Lottie Wilson.” Berrien County Genealogy, accessed March 24, 2016. http://berrien.migenweb.net/History_files/LottieWilson.htm.

 

Painting by Lottie Wilson of her daughter Caletta Huggart. Image Source: "Old Family Photo's H, Berrien County, Michigan." Old Family Photo's H, Berrien County, Michigan. Berrien County, 25 May 2010, accessed 31 March 2016. http://berrien.migenweb.net/Familyphoto_files/h.html.

Bibliography

“150 Years of Making History: SAIC’s First African American Student.” SAIC School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Accessed March 24, 2016. http://www.saic.edu/150/saic%E2%80%99s-first-african-american-student.

“A Noted Postel Artist. Mrs. Lottie Wilson’s Work- Her Studio-Club Life in Michigan - the Busy Social World-News Nuggets.” Colored American, July 13, 1901, p. 6.

“Afro-American Council to Be Held at Indianapolis August Next---The Programme.” New Age (Portland, Oregon), July 21, 1900, p. 5.

“Along the Colored Line Music and Art.” Crisis, Sept. 1, 1915, p. 215.

“Art Study Class Organized.” Colored American, April 26, 1902, p. 12.

“Chips.” Board Axe, August 20, 1910, (Chicago, Illinois): 2.

“City and Social Briefs.” The Freeman (Indianpolis), March 4, 1905, p. 8.

“City Brevities.” Colored American, August 2, 1902, p. 6.

“City Paragraphs.” Colored American, March 22, 1902, p. 16.

“City Paragraphs.” Colored American, December 6, 1902, p. 16.

Curtis, Claire. "Blackwell, Alice Stone." Encyclopedia of Women and American Politics, Second Edition. Facts On File, 2014. Accessed March 31, 2016. http://online.infobase.com/HRC/Search/Details/164365?q=lottie jackson.

Drolet, Mary Ellen. “Moss, Lottie Wilson: Well Known Artist Died Last Night: Mrs. Daniel Moss Had Many Friends, Being Well Versed in Different Lines” Friends of Silverbrook Cemetery. Accessed April 8, 2016. http://www.friendsofsilverbrook.org/site4/obituaries/1534-moss-lottie-wilson.

“Equality Before The Law.” Woman’s Tribune, May 20, 1899.

Franklin, Donna L. What's Love Got to Do With It?: Understanding and Healing the Rift Between Black Men and Women. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.

“Here and There.” Colored American Magazine, Nov. 1, 1902, p. 53.

“Here and There.” The Colored American, June, 20, 1903, p. 3.

Hill, Nelson. “Tribute to Lottie Wilson.” Berrien County Genealogy. Accessed March 24, 2016. http://berrien.migenweb.net/History_files/LottieWilson.htm.

“Mrs Wilson and the President.” Colored American, May 24, 1902, p. 7.

"Old Family Photo's H, Berrien County, Michigan." Old Family Photo's H, Berrien County, Michigan. Berrien County, 25 May 2010. Accessed 31 March 2016. http://berrien.migenweb.net/Familyphoto_files/h.html.

“Social Items by Mrs. Irene Lewis, 3745 Wabash Ave., Phone Douglas 4461.” Broad Ax, June 10, 1910, p. 2.

“The Council at Work, the Negro’s Most Effective National Organization Hold a Pleasing and Profitable Session--Plans for the Year.” The Colored American, January 6, 1900, p. 15.

“Town Topics.” The Colored American, May 10, 1902, p. 5

“Washington Under the Calcium.” The Colored American, July 12, 1902, p. 10.

Suggested Readings

Franklin, Donna L. What's Love Got to Do with It?: Understanding and Healing the Rift between Black Men and Women. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.

“Here and There.” Colored American Magazine, Nov. 1, 1902, p. 53.

“Equality Before The Law.” Woman’s Tribune, May 20, 1899.

“The Wilson Family.” The Southwest Michigan Heritage Society. Accessed April 4, 2016. http://smbhs.org/research.html#top.

Drolet, Mary Ellen. “Moss, Lottie Wilson: Well Known Artist Died Last Night: Mrs. Daniel Moss Had Many Friends, Being Well Versed in Different Lines,” Niles Daily Sun, Friday, January 16, 1914, page 1, col. 1 microfilm Niles District Library, Friends of Silverbrook Cemetery. Accessed April 8, 2016. http://www.friendsofsilverbrook.org/site4/obituaries/1534-moss-lottie-wilson


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