top of page


History Should Also Credit Mary Talbert’s Anti - Lynching Work

Fueled by the Power of Women: Mary B. Talbert Led an Anti-lynching Campaign that Provided a Foundation to the Passage of the 2022 Anti-Lynching Legislation

History books note Mary B. Talbert’s suffragist and preservation work, as well as her leadership in establishing the NAACP but there is so much more to the story.  It is now important to update America’s anti-lynching history to include the dedicated work of this fearless Buffalo Human Rights advocate, Mary B. Talbert.   Talbert’s suffragist and NAACP leadership are related to her advocacy to end the cruelty of lynching African American men and women.  Her work to protect the lives of African Americans created a path that took 100 years to establish a law that recognized lynching in America as a federal crime.  In 1922 Mary Talbert called upon black and white club women to unite to protect blacks from such atrocities as the violent riots that had occurred in the aftermath of WWI.  Talbert knew the power of collaboration demonstrated by her membership and worked with several national and international women’s clubs and NAACP leadership. She served as president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs), was elected as a vice president of the NAACP, helped establish multiple NAACP chapters, and spoke nationally and internationally to advance an array of causes. Talbert organized the NAACP Antilynching Crusaders whose goal was to raise one million dollars to help stamp out the vicious crime of murdering innocent women and men whose only offense was that they defied Southern-style apartheid which had relegated blacks to second class citizenship.  While falling short of its financial goal, Talbert and her lieutenants were able to carry their message into the homes of women across the nation and the NAACP received crucial funds to help it fight lynching.  Congressman Leonidas Dyer of Missouri introduced an antilynching bill into Congress in 1922. [i] Congress failed to ratify the bill and Talbert urged women to use the power of their ballot to defeat representatives who did not support the bill.  The NAACP awarded Talbert the Spingarn Medal for her efforts to fight oppression and preserve the Frederick Douglass estate.  She was the first woman to receive this coveted award. Congress finally enacted anti-lynching legislation in 2022, one hundred years after Talbert's campaign.  

UB professor and author, Lillian S. Williams, PhD is writing a biography of Mary Burnett Talbert. We are energized by the fearless advocacy of Mary B. Talbert. 

“I’m fascinated by her,” Williams says. When I look at her story, it talks about tenacity, it talks about vision, it talks about the efforts — I mean, consistent efforts — to improve life for other people. In the materials that I have, her philosophy stays true: She was on a path to make America (live up to its creed) all that it should be."

[i] Crisis 25(March 1923), 213-214. 

by Lillian S. William, PhD

bottom of page