Suffragist of the Month – July

Sarah J. Smith Thompson Garnet, July 31, 1831

African-American Champion of Voting Rights for Women

Sarah Garnet was born on Long Island July 31, 1831 to Sylvanus Smith and Ann Eliza Springsteel Smith.  Her parents were of mixed race, Native-American, black and white, and had lived for a time on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation on eastern Long Island, where Sara and her sister Susan were born. The family would eventually move to Queens County, (later known as Brooklyn) and would welcome nine more children.

 In 1845, three years before the first Woman’s Rights Convention was called at Seneca Falls, New York, Sarah began working as a teacher’s assistant at the age of fourteen in the African Free School in Williamsburg. The African Free School was founded in 1787 by the New York Manumission Society, whose goal was the abolition of slavery. In 1834 the once private institution founded by John Jay was integrated with the New York Public School system.

In the late 1880s Sarah organized the Equal Suffrage League, the first organized in Brooklyn by a black woman, thus enabling black women to work for suffrage from within their own neighborhoods. After her retirement from teaching she travelled to England to learn about the suffrage movement’s activities there.

 She worked on the national scene as well as the local, taking an active role in the National Association of Colored Women, becoming superintendent of the Suffrage department for several years. She was active in the Niagara movement, which was a forerunner of the NAACP. (National American Association of Colored People). She was a brave and daring suffragist.

Read more about Sarah in Chapter 13 of my book.



One Response

  1. Marguerite Kearns July 2, 2014 at 8:58 am | | Reply

    Fascinating, Antonia. Keep those stories rolling in our direction!

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