Oberlin College, the highly rated liberal arts educational institution in a Ohio with a long history of educating African Americans, has announced that it is naming its main library to honor Mary Church Terrell.
Terrell, was born in 1863, the daughter of former slaves. She graduated from Oberlin College in 1884 and went on to become a civil rights and feminist activist. Terrell was a teacher and principal of M Street Colored High School in Washington, D.C., now known as Dunbar High School. She was a founding member of the National Association of Colored Women and the National Association of Colored People. Terrell was the first African American woman to serve on the Washington, D.C. Board of Education. In 1940 she published her autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World.
In 1949, Terrell, then in her 80s, was refused service at a Washington, D.C., restaurant. She filed suit and in a case eventually decided by the Supreme Court, racial segregation of restaurants in the nation’s capital was ruled unconstitutional.
Mary Church Terrell died on July 24, 1954 at the age of 90.
Carmen Twillie Ambar, the new president of Oberlin College who will be inaugurated on the same day that the library will officially be named, stated that “Oberlin’s history is steeped in moments of recognition of the college’s landmark achievements in its early years that provided access to higher education for women and African Americans. By naming our library after Mary Church Terrell, we are honoring her incredible courage, her great work, and her historic achievements which have made American society more fair and just.”