Progressive Era activist and reformer Fannie Barrier Williams was one of the most prominent educated African American women of her generation. A new effort to honor the woman who was a prominent spokesperson for economic, racial, and gender reforms has centered in Williams’ home town of Brockport, New York.
Wanda A. Hendricks, author of Fannie Barrier Williams: Crossing the Borders of Region and Race, recently commented on the FBW renaissance:
“I am amazed at all the ways in which Fannie Barrier Williams is being recognized and celebrated,” Williams said. The author when on to list a number of recent honors including a luncheon named after Williams, and a plaque on one of the oldest buildings on the campus of The College at Brockport (Williams was the first African American female graduate of the College).
Another recognition was the inclusion of Williams in a mural created by upstate New York painter, Rick Muto. The mural, pictured below, was dedicated in May of 2016 in Brockport’s Sagawa Park, on the corner of Main and Erie Streets.
Fannie Barrier Williams was even mentioned at the inauguration of the new College president, who is the first female to hold that position.
“The most remarkable thing is that much of this has spread far beyond the academy,” Hendricks added. “I just returned from a NEH Summer Institute in the city of New York for 30 teachers from 18 different states discussing Fannie, race, gender and woman’s suffrage. They were required to read the book and seemed genuinely interested in my interpretation of her. They also asked some very interesting and probing questions.”
Hendricks’s biography of Fannie Barrier Williams has also been celebrated. The book was the winner of the 2014 Letitia Woods Brown Book Award, presented by the Association of Black Women Historians.
Photo credit: Charlie Cowling, College Archivist, Local History & General Reference Librarian, Drake Memorial Library, The College at Brockport