Marie Jackson Stuart

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Marie Jackson Stuart, 1878-1925

By Emmie Cronin, undergraduate student, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD

In April 1917 in a small theatre in New York, Marie Jackson Stuart stepped onto the stage dressed as Granny Maumee, starring in one of the first all-African American plays to be produced on Broadway. One reviewer praised the performance as exhibiting the "grandeur of Greek tragedy." Beneath all her makeup, Stuart was a woman who had an impact on the black suffrage movement, her voice one of the many that helped to establish the rights of women within the United States in the 20th century.

Born around 1878 in Pennsylvania, Marie Jackson Stuart lived in New York as early as 1906. Stuart worked as an elocutionist: she performed as an actor in various productions; she taught drama to aspiring students, and she was actively involved in her community with women's clubs, like the Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs, the YWCA, and the Harriet Tubman Club.

Marie Jackson Stuart played a prominent role within the black suffrage movement. She helped found and organize the Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs, and she served as a secretary for several years. Stuart was in attendance at the 1913 conference in Buffalo, New York. Additionally, Stuart was president of the Harriet Tubman Club of New York City, another organization that also fought for the rights of African American women. She was involved in her neighborhood Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), conducting meetings and putting on events for it.

The 1920 census lists Marie Jackson Stuart as married but living without her husband in a boarding house in New York. According to a newspaper advertisement, she owned and operated a school of "expression, music and dramatic art" that was just a few blocks away from the Apollo Theatre. Her most prominent role was as Granny in Three Plays for a Negro Theatre. The play was radical at the time in its discussion of racial identity, and it commented on the position that black people played within the American framework. It is obvious that Stuart used her talent and performance skill in the black suffrage movement. She worked closely with W.E.B. Du Bois and helped to produce a play entitled the Pageant for the New York Emancipation Exposition. This play toured around the United States and helped to teach Americans about the story of emancipation and the role that African Americans could play in changing their country's narrative.

Marie Jackson Stuart is a fascinating character, who served at the forefront of the black suffrage movement. She used her talents as both an elocutionist and actress to make progress for African American women. Stuart died on November 14, 1925, in New York. Services were held at St. Mark's M.E. Church, and Addie Hunton spoke. Marie Jackson Stuart should be remembered as a figure who helped to weave the tapestry of the Black suffrage movement and paved the way for other figures to continue her journey in fighting for the equal rights of all people.

 

CAPTION: Marie Jackson Stuart, New York Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, ca.1912.
CREDIT: "Women's Clubs," The Crisis 4, no.1 (May 1912), p.38. [LINK]

 

CAPTION: Marie Jackson Stuart, in her role as Granny Maumee, ca. 1917.
CREDIT: "First Steps Toward a National Negro Theater," Current Opinion 62, no. 5 (May 1917), 328, Google Books.

SOURCES:

Advertiser, The Crisis 6, no.1 (May 1913), p.49, GoogleBooks.

Afro-American Notes, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 24, 1911, Newspapers.com.

Afro-American Notes, Brooklyn Times Union, May 28, 1910, Newspapers.com.

Berrett, Joshua, "The Golden Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation," The Black Perspective in Music 16, no. 1 (1988): 63-80, doi:10.2307/1215127.

"Female Smokers Are Criticized," New York Age, July 10, 1913, Newspapers.com.

Finding Aid, Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs Records, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives, University of Albany, https://archives.albany.edu.

"First Steps Toward a National Negro Theater," Current Opinion 62, no. 5 (May 1917), 328, Google Books.

Manhattan Personals, New York Age, November 14, 1925, Newspapers.com.

New York, New York, Extracted Death Index, 1862-1948, Mary Jackson, November 15, 1925, Ancestry Library.

New York, State Census, 1915, s.v. "M.J. Stuart," Ancestry Library.

The News of Greater New York, New York Age, May 12, 1910, Newspapers.com.

"Three Plays for a Negro Theater," Internet Broadway Database Archive, Broadway League, 2019, ibdb.com.

"The Tubman Monument Question of Location," New York Age, March 25, 1915, Newspapers.com.

Walton, Lester A., "Negro Actors Make Debut in Drama at Garden Theatre; Given Most Cordial Welcome," New York Age, April 12, 1917, Newspapers.com.

"Woman's Day in Orange," New York Age, June 28, 1906, Newspapers.com.

United States Census 1920, s.v. "Marie J. Stewart, Manhattan, NY," Ancestry Library.


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