Carrie A. Griggs Tuggle

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Carrie A. Griggs Tuggle, 1858-1924

By Sylvea Hollis
Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow in Gender and Sexuality Equality, National Park Service

Carrie A. Griggs Tuggle was born in Eufaula, Alabama, on May 28, 1858, to Warren and Charity (Crofford) Griggs. She was born into bondage. Carrie was the oldest of four children, with one brother and two sisters. Her early life was shaped by Reconstruction's violent end and Jim Crow's gradual codification. On November 3, 1874, when she was sixteen years old deadly riots occurred during a statewide election in Eufaula. Her father, Warren, had been an active voter since at least 1867, when he registered to vote in Barbour County, Alabama. Carrie was nine years old at the time.

As a young child Carrie was an active participant in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and it was there that she first learned how to learn as well as how to lead. Carrie later also stood out as a confident student in public school. She subsequently received private instruction. Carrie was part of the first generation of black women to hold leadership positions within the AME Church. She was ordained as a deacon by Bishop Daniel Payne and even helped erect a church in Georgetown, Georgia. It is unclear but likely during the course of her work with the church that Carrie met her husband, John Tuggle, who was originally from Georgia.

One year after the riot in Eufaula, in 1875, Carrie married John Tuggle. The first major city John and Carrie lived in together was Montgomery, AL—the state's capital and former first capital of the Confederacy. According to the 1880 Montgomery census, Carrie was able to work largely from home. In Montgomery she was a seamstress, and John worked as a porter in a railroad office. Carrie's days were probably spent working alongside her mother, Charity, and two sisters Emma and Adel, who also lived in the household. Carrie and John Tuggle had four children, but they were parented far more through their extended networks.

No doubt Carrie's upbringing during Alabama's violent transition from Reconstruction to Jim Crow motivated her to center her civic work on Alabama's most vulnerable subjects –working-class women and children. Hers was a world of black private institution building, coupled with complicated patronage relationships. The Tuggles moved to Birmingham, AL around 1883. By 1900, John Tuggle was working as a mail carrier and Carrie probably used their home for her civic and social work.

What Carrie faced in Birmingham was a space of new opportunities and new challenges. Birmingham was founded after the Civil War and thus after the end of slavery, and yet the people seeking to build a new economic giant from the Confederacy's ashes very much still desired to build the city off a legacy of racial economic inequality. Carrie responded

to the historical problems of the region with a kind of localized determination. Rather than leave the South, Tuggle made the decision to stay in Birmingham and try to improve conditions within the cities largely working class African American community.

In Birmingham Carrie worked as a welfare officer and advocated for delinquent children in the local courts, because they were subjected to vagrancy laws just like black adults. Out of this work grew her desire to create adequate housing options for the city's black youth who were on the streets. First, Tuggle brought children into her home, but she eventually raised funds through various networks. On September 3, 1903 she founded the Tuggle Institute during an era when southern political and economic policies unabashedly discriminated against African Americans, Tuggle Institute was privately funded but it filled a very important public need—housing and educating black youth and keeping them away from criminal influences. Her youth advocacy inspired a particularly supportive group of white judges to found the Jefferson County Juvenile and Domestic Court. Tuggle and the Institute became a powerful symbol of how African American fraternal associations made tangible contributions to local social welfare policies.

Carrie founded other institutions to support her civic work. By 1907 she had founded the Daughters and Sons of Protection, a fraternal association that regularly raised money, sent food goods, and collected clothing for the pupils at Tuggle Institute. The organization eventually had members in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Iowa, and Illinois. Carrie also was the state leader of the Knights and Ladies of Honor of Alabama. She leveraged her leadership in these groups, as well as others, as mechanisms for fundraising and to advance her deep belief in self-improvement. Carrie was also a member of the Household of Ruth, Order of Eastern Star, and Mysterious Tenth. John's death in 1909 meant Carrie had to continue her work as a mother and social reformer while managing his loss.

Through her church and fraternal links, Carrie created space for her civic work. Before John passed in 1909 both he and Carrie had been active members of the Court of Calanthe, the auxiliary of the Colored Knights of Pythias. The Colored Knights of Pythias was a post-Reconstruction-era black fraternal founded in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1880. John was the national head of the Court of Calanthe for several years. Carrie had long been involved both locally and nationally, but her work took on even more fervor after John passed. She was elected the head of Alabama's Grand Lodge (or state cluster). John's death left her not only alone to raise their children, but also rather marginalized from national leadership positions in the Court of Calanthe. Nonetheless she used her other civic affiliations as a way to support social causes dear to her heart.

In Birmingham, Carrie gradually became one of the leading women in the city's black uplift community—a group of largely working- and middle-class people who were dedicated to improving race relations and the everyday conditions of black people in the city. She founded a

newspaper, called The Truth. An early copy described the paper's purpose: “The Truth is a fearless champion for the right, and not to the detriment of any body's good name. We advocate ideas, and not persons.”

Tuggle's expansive networks within the civic worlds of Birmingham's black and white communities granted her a privileged status as a race leader. But her status was marked by the dual realities of her lived experience as an African American and as a woman in the Jim Crow New South. For example, when approximately 4,500 black women attempted to register to vote in Birmingham after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, Carrie Tuggle was the first black woman to register. She was one of only 225 black women and 229 black men who were able to register in Birmingham's post-Nineteenth Amendment fervor of 1920. During this period Tuggle used her influence to advocate for other black women—mostly educators—to have the right to register as well. She tried to use this new political power, though limited, to advocate for the Tuggle Institute. It was a daunting task, but Tuggle's work as an advocate of working-class women and children was her life's work. Carrie Tuggle died November 5, 1924. She was buried at Tuggle Institute. By the time Tuggle passed away, the Institute campus consisted of fifteen acres and thirteen frame buildings, but, her greatest legacy was her students.


Carrie A. Tuggle. Courtesy of the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame
Accessed online at


Alabama Women's Hall of Fame (AWHF), Marion, AL; accessible online at resources accessed include:

Tuggle biographical sketch on AWHF website:

Blount, Lena M. Richardson. “My Tribute to a God Loving Woman.” Paper presented as endorsement to nomination of Carrie A. Tuggle in AWHF in 1979. (Typewritten).

Carrie A. Tuggle Elementary School History, ca. 1982 (Mimeographed)

Carrie A. Tuggle Nomination File, Alabama Women's Hall of Fame

Feldman, Lynne B. A Sense of Place: Birmingham's Black Middle-Class Community, 1890-1930 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1999)

Garrett-Scott, Shennette Monique. “Daughters of Ruth: Enterprising Black Women in Insurance in the New South, 1890s to 1930s (Ph.D. Diss., University of Texas-Austin, 2011)

Gaston, Arthur George. Green Power: The Successful Way of A.G. Gaston (Troy: Troy State University, 1978)

Gaston, A. G. “Mrs. Carrie A. Tuggle: Championess for the Wayward and Homeless.” Typescript of Dr. Gaston's Tribute to Carrie Tuggle at her induction into AWOF in 1979

Gilmore, Glenda. Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013)

Kelly, Brian. Race, Class, and Power in the Alabama Coalfields, 1908-1921 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001)

Loder-Jackson, Tondra. Schoolhouse Activists: African American Educators and the Long Birmingham Civil Rights Movement (Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 2015)

Riser, R. Volney. Defying Disfranchisement: Black Voting Rights Activism in the Jim Crow South, 1890-1908 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2010)

Terborg-Penn, Rosalyn. African American Women and the Struggle for the Vote (Bloomington: Indiana University, 1998)

Williams, E. A.; Smith W Green; Joseph L Jones; Knights of Pythias, Supreme Lodge.; National Baptist Publishing Board, History and Manual of the Colored Knights of Pythias N.A., S.A., E.A., A. and A. (Nashville: National Baptist Publishing Board, 1917)

Cleveland Gazette, January 16, 1915

“Hardstew in Birmingham,” Savannah Times, June 6, 1917

“Southern Secret Orders Support and Found School,” Chicago Defender, September 20, 1913

“Founder of Orphanage in Alabama Dies: Mrs. Tuggle's Life One of Service,” Chicago Defender, November 24, 1924

Warren Griggs Voter Registration, Barbour County, Alabama, 1867

1870 US Census, Barbour County, Alabama

1880 US Census, Montgomery County, Alabama

Quote in sketch: The Truth, October 28, 1905, microfilm, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, AL.

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