If you’re from Brockport, you probably know about Fannie Barrier Williams. But most of us don’t recognize the name, despite her former status as a national celebrity. Barrier Williams was a suffragist, civil rights leader, orator, and changemaker. She was born and raised in Brockport, and hers was one of the only Black families in the community. In 1870, she would become the first Black woman to graduate from SUNY Brockport.
After college, Barrier Williams took a teaching position in Mississippi and experienced a level of racism she had never before encountered. It broke her spirit and led her toward a life as an activist. She moved to Boston to study piano but was asked to leave after her presence made white students uncomfortable. She met her husband, Samuel, and moved to Chicago where he started a law practice, and she became active in the local community.
Barrier Williams started by fighting for women’s rights in the workplace and pushed for housing and health facilities for women and children in poverty. She fought to become the first […]
585mag.com [Jan/Feb 2024 Issue]