“The work of black club women contributed to the survival of the black community. Black women’s clubs were, like the clubs of white women, led by educated, often by middle-class women, but unlike their white counterparts, black club women frequently successfully bridged the class barrier and concerned themselves with issues of importance to poor women, working mothers, tenant farm wives. They were concerned with education, self and community improvement, but they always strongly emphasized race pride and race advancement. Their inspiring example of self-help and persistent community service deserves to be more closely studied by historians, especially those interested in urban history.”
Gerda Lerner, “Early Community Work of Black Club Women,” Journal of Negro History, April 1974.
The Women Who Changed Atlanta and the World exhibit features the work of two prominent women-led organizations, the Chautauqua Circle and the Neighborhood Union. Members of both organizations advocated for Black welfare and improvement of societal conditions in Atlanta. The Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library is the proud repository for the archival and historical collections of both organizations. This digital exhibit highlights their organizational history and showcases archival resources found within their collections. For more information about these, and other collections at the AUC Woodruff Library, please visit us online.
While the Chautauqua Circle was a literary society as well as an educational and social organization, they also raised funds for Black youth and participated in dialogues about the state of Black children and the quality of Black life. The Neighborhood Union was a civic and social justice organization that mobilized resources from Morehouse College and Black, middle-class Atlantans in order to address the needs of Black youth and impoverished families. Both organizations had key leaders and members who were affiliated with the Atlanta University Center institutions, often through marriage.
Though over a century since their founding, the best practices for education, activism and engagement that these organizations utilized in transforming their communities, are two different but connected ways for creating new opportunities for growth, economic development, and self-sufficiency.
Exhibit created by Brittany Newberry, Kayin Shabazz, and Trashinda Wright