Mary Burnett Talbert - Table of Contents

Mary Burnett Talbert - Chronology

Source: Uncrowned Queens: "Mary Morris Burnett Talbert"

Source: Mary Burnett Talbert (Digital Schomburg African American Women Writers of the 19th Century)

Plaque located on the lot adjoining the Michigan Avenue Baptist Church left background). Tablet's house, now demolished, was located there.

Michigan Avenue Baptist Church

Detail - 2002 display at Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society Museum

Forest Lawn Memorial

  • Mary Morris Burnett was born and educated in Oberlin, Ohio in 1866.

  • At the age of 19, Mary Burnett graduated from Oberlin College.

  • In 1886 she was hired as a teacher in Little Rock, Ark.

  • In 1887, she was hired as a high school principal. She was the first Black high school principal in the state of Arkansas.

  • In 1891, she married Buffalonian William H. Talbert.

  • The Talberts' only daughter, Sarah May, was born in 1892.

  • The church the family attended in Buffalo was the Michigan Street Baptist Church. (Their home was located next door to the church)

  • She was the president of the church's Christian Cultural Congress, the vehicle for many cultural and educational activities.

  • In 1899, she became one of the founding members of the Phyllis Wheatley Club of Colored Women, the city's first affiliate of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs

  • In November 1900, Mary Talbert, along with other members of the Phyllis Wheatley Club, organized a protest rally at the Michigan Street Baptist Church. They called on the Board of Managers of the Pan American Exposition to include the Negro Exhibit, an exhibit that presented the achievements of Blacks since Emancipation, in the upcoming Exposition. The group also advocated for the appointment of a colored commissioner. Mary Talbert was proposed as a most able and capable individual to represent the Negro community in this position.

  • 1901. In contrast to the degrading Old Plantation Exhibition at the 1901 Pan American Exposition, Buffalo's Black community lead by Mrs. John Dover, James Ross, and Mary Talbert met at the Michigan Street Baptist Church to promote a Negro Education Exhibit such as Booker T. Washington's exhibit in Atlanta's 1895.

  • In 1905, W.E.B. Dubois, John Hope, Monroe Trotter and 27 others met secretly in the home of Mary B. Talbert. They founded and organized the Niagara Movement, forerunner of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

  • She served as president of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs from 1916 to 1920, and was a delegate to the International Council of Women held in Norway.

  • She was also vice president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

  • In 1916, she was elected President of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs. She was elected to a second two-year term as President of that organization in 1918. During her tenure as NACW President, Mary Talbert was instrumental in the preservation and restoration of the Frederick Douglass Home in Anacostia.

  • As chairman of the Anti-Lynching Committee, she launched a crusade for passage of the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. She traveled thousands of miles nationwide speaking to mixed audiences to gain support for the bill and her Crisis article Women & Colored Women demonstrates her inspiration.

  • During World War I (1914-1918), Mary Talbert was active in the war bond drives, personally soliciting thousands of dollars in Liberty Bonds. Further, she served as a Red Cross Nurse with the American Expeditionary Forces in France.

  • In 1920, she served as a delegate to the International Council of Women in Christiania, Norway.

  • In 1922, Mary Talbert won the NAACP Springarn Award. She Was the first Black woman to achieve this distinction.

  • Mary Talbert died in 1923. She is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery

It is often noted in her biographies that Mary Talbert was the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. degree from the University of Buffalo. However, this fact has never been proven conclusively. According to Williams, U.B. did not offer Ph.D. degrees before 1930, but they did offer certificates that were called doctorates. It is possible that Mary Talbert could have received one of these ědoctorate ěcertificates leading to the confusion over the actual credentials.


Excerpt from
Deidre Williams, "NAACP Turns 100 Today,"
published in The Buffalo News, February 12, 2009, B1

In 1905, 32 prominent African-American men gathered for a reception at the home of William and Mary B. Talbert members of Michigan Street Baptist Church - once a stop on the Underground Railroad. The men - who had financial backing from William Talbert - wanted equal rights for black men.And they wanted it immediately.

'We are men. We want to betreated as men. And we shall win," scholar and activist W. E. B. DuBois was quoted as saying. little did the Talberts know that the reception they hosted in their home would give birth to one of the country's leading civil rights organizations.

The following day, the group convened officially for the first time ast he Niagara Movement in the Fort Erie (Ont.) Hotel, according to Bishop William Henderson, historian and tour guide for Michigan StreetBaptist Church.

Four years later, the group would form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which celebrates its centennial today.

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