Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biography of Fannie H. Phillips, 1870-1929

By Amanda Notarantonio and Sophia Szeneitas, Undergraduates, University of Rhode Island

Milton H. Phillips and Fannie H. Phillips (Green) were a couple who lived in Providence in the early 1900s. Both had a history of involvement with causes related to women's suffrage and political equality for African Americans. Milton Phillips was born in Virginia in 1867. He eventually moved to Providence and lived on Cushing Street. The 1900 federal census listed him as a salesman. Fannie Green was born in 1870 in Virginia. After arriving in Providence, she worked as a servant in 1900 at Mr. Phillips' Cushing Street home. Milton and Fannie soon had a daughter, Mildred R. Phillips, born in approximately 1902. The family then all lived together at 72 Meeting Street, a home owned by Mr. Phillips.

On April 26, 1903, Milton Phillips officially married Fannie Green at his home on Meeting Street in Providence. The wedding was officiated by a pastor from the Congdon Street Baptist Church, where the Phillipses were very involved. The couple continued living on Meeting Street for many years as they became involved in the local community.

In August 1900, Mr. Phillips was one of eleven members of the Congdon Street Baptist Church arrested for allegedly disturbing a religious meeting featuring church leadership. The pastor of the church, Reverend James H. Presley, was revered by some members of the church and disliked by others. As tensions increased during the meeting and members demanded his resignation, Deacon Nelson Morgan, a supporter of the pastor, had the eleven members arrested. The charges against Mr. Phillips and the others were dropped at the end of August 1900, after a short time in court.

Mr. and Mrs. Phillips often hosted gatherings in their home for the causes they were involved in. In October 1906, the Women's Auxiliary of the Frederick Douglass Republican Club was held at their home. The meeting featured 40 guests and speakers who shared their experiences during the race riots in Atlanta. The women at the meeting planned a rally for the following week at the Congdon Street Baptist Church, the oldest Baptist church in Providence.

Mr. Phillips was involved with the First Ward Colored Club in 1911. This organization was dedicated to incorporating African Americans into political life in Providence. The club also mobilized to emphasize the power of voting. After the first meeting, Mr. Phillips was appointed to a committee to encourage registration.

Mrs. Phillips was part of the effort to organize Black women's suffrage clubs in Rhode Island. During a meeting held at her home in 1913, several prominent suffragists of the time, including white suffragist Sara Algeo and famous Black suffrage leader Mary E. Jackson spoke and urged the other women present to organize into clubs.

Mrs. Phillips attended the first session of the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Party in April 1913. This meeting is where future meetings and events were discussed to include contributions from Black suffragists. According to the Providence Journal, when Mrs. James (Sara) Algeo asked Mrs. Phillips to explain why she desired the right to vote, Phillips responded, "exactly for the same reason that men do." In the same year, Mrs. Phillips went on to become a member of the auxiliary committee for the annual meeting of the New England Suffrage League. The meeting was organized to provide equal constitutional rights for African Americans, with protections against disenfranchisement, segregation, and lynching.

In December 1914, Mrs. Phillips was on the committee of arrangements for an event at the First Baptist Church. The featured speaker was Mrs. Belle Case La Follette, wife of a U.S. Senator who was firmly opposed to segregation in Washington, D.C. Suffragist Mary E. Jackson also gave a speech at the event about the work of African American suffragists in Rhode Island.

The Phillips signed a resolution of the R.I. Union Colored Women's Clubs in 1916 in support of the Federal Woman Suffrage Amendment in Providence at the Congdon Street Baptist Church. Following the resolution, Mrs. Phillips continued her involvement with suffrage causes by providing help at a bazaar held by the Providence Woman Suffrage Party in 1917. Mr. Phillips was potentially involved with the Universal Negro Improvement Association and was sent as a delegate to the Atlantic City Division in 1922.

Fannie Phillips passed away on February 10, 1929. In the 1936 Rhode Island state census, Mr. Phillips was reported to be widowed and was listed as a porter at the train station. This couple made great strides for Black Rhode Islanders seeking political equality and freedoms.


(1922, November 25). Negro World, p. 8.

Resolution of the RI Union Colored Women's Clubs, Accessible online at Rhode Island, U.S., Death Index, 1630-1930

1920 Federal Census, "Mildred R. Phillips,"


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