The legacy of Fannie Barrier Williams

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]

PAWS: Life is Better with Baseball

Twelve-year-old Erik Gomez has one dream: to be a professional Major League Baseball player. He wears a championship ring from a tournament in Cooperstown and his favorite player is Fernando Tatis, Jr. of the Padres. Gomez trains five to six days a week at PAWS, a one-of-a-kind center with a turfed field, pitching machines, an amazing sound system and graffiti-lined walls. You may remember PAWS or “Providing Animal Welfare Services” as a group that supports city pet owners. The owners built dog houses, launched a spay/neuter program, and provided low-cost pet care units. Starting in 2018, they worked diligently on a new vision to serve the community through sports. After a few years and a lot of hard work, the youth and advocacy center officially opened. Cofounders Matt and Laura Piccone believe that sports, primarily baseball and softball, will be the catalyst for social change within their community.

“I still have a strong drive to help the animals, but you have to help the people first,” says Matt. “If communities are suffering, animals are suffering. If people are concerned with baseball, they start to […]

585kids.com [Fall 2023 Issue]

Trick or Treating is for Everyone

Calling all goblins, ghouls, and ghosts! Attention: all princesses, Pokemon, and pumpkins! Do your kids love to play dress up? Be sure to add this Halloweenthemed activity to your October calendar. The Al Sigl WalkAbout is a day of indoor fun where families and individuals served by Al Sigl’s seven member agencies gather together for accessible trick-or-treating at Eastview Mall. This free event, held on October 22, ends with a costume contest for people of all ages and abilities. Everyone is […]

585kids.com [2023 Fall Issue]

What I learned about Fannie Barrier Williams:

and how the legacy of this change maker is being kept alive by local students.

I was so honored to visit an incredible group of scholars at SUNY Brockport last fall. They were all recipients of the Fannie Barrier Williams Scholarship. Jianna Howard is their teacher, advisor and mentor. She’s the reason they call themselves a family. 

Michael Hanlon did a fantastic job photographing the students and the buildings around campus.

I am embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of Fannie Barrier Williams when asked to write about these scholars. I have a Masters Degree in education and I had never once heard her name in any class I took or book I was assigned to read. Before sitting down to write this article, I did a ton of research and read Fannie Barrier Williams: Crossing the Borders of Region and Race by Wanda A. Hendricks. Wanda is a history professor at the University of South Carolina and an expert on Fannie’s life.

I wish more children had the opportunity to learn about the life Fannie led and the achievements she made despite being met with opposition at every turn. It’s up to all of us to share the stories of change makers like Fannie.


Please enjoy this article on Fannie Barrier Williams and the students who are achieving their dreams in her honor.

Angelina & me

Sometimes the seeds that are planted in one chance meeting blossom beyond anything you could have imagined.

This woman. 

Intentional. Generous. Empathetic. A force of nature. 

Her soul shines through a smile that lights up the whole room.

When she pulls you in for a hug, she’ll adjust you first. She’ll say, “No. It needs to be heart to heart.” And she will move her heart to yours. It is so easy to be emotional around Angelina. Her spirit allows you to be yourself, even if you’ve only just met.

Back in June, I took my kids to the Black Kids Matter celebration in Penfield, NY because I knew we’d meet great people and have a lot of fun. There were incredible African musicians there and lots of black owned businesses. I met so many fantastic people that day including children’s author Nykki L Matthews, twelve year old entrepreneur Trinity Jackson and, of course, Angelina. 

I introduced myself and asked her if my husband, Chris, could take her photo. She talked about Native Made with so much excitement. Chris sent me the photo he had taken and I was so glad to see how he had captured that joy in her eyes and smile. 

I knew then that I was going to tell my editor, the fabulous Christine Green, about Angelina and beg her to let me write an article about her. Not only did Christine agree to let me write it, it ended up being chosen for the cover story and now everyone gets to see Angelina’s beauty radiating from the COVER of the magazine!

I was thrilled to join Angelina at the (585) photoshoot. You would never know that she was completely out of her comfort zone the way she rocked different poses, changed outfits and shot lots of film inside and outside of Innovation Square. After the shoot, the incredibly talented David Turner allowed us to take a peek at some of the images. This gifted photographer, who has photographed celebrities like Audrey Hepburn, was so gracious with us both, allowing us to give our opinion on the best ones.

As Angelina sat there looking at photos and starting to come down from the adrenaline high, we had the best talk about what it’s like to have a dream you want to pursue in this stage of life, both of us being moms who give most of our time away to our children, spouses, the household. We struggle to manage our time, balance our relationships and workload, all while remaining present with our families. We laughed and cried together, bonding over our similarities.

Months later, I was standing in my kitchen, scrolling on my phone, when I saw the cover of (585) Magazine. I screamed and texted Angelina. She had seen it a minute before I did and was screaming in the parking lot of the Penfield Target. I got to celebrate with her at the magazine’s Happy Hour for the November issue.

I am so grateful that the Rochester community will get to see this woman. This fierce advocate for Indigenous People. This mother, daughter, sister, wife, steward of the Earth and my friend. 

I wish her Gramsy were still alive to see Angelina at this moment, in this beautiful stage of her life. But I’m so thrilled Angelina’s children will have this to keep forever. Please enjoy this article on Angelina Hilton and mark your calendars for the Native Made Market which will take place the Saturday right after Thanksgiving.

About Me

Sarah grew up surrounded by books and loved her notebooks and pens. She loved writing plays and performing them with her siblings. Her long stories won her the future author award in elementary school. As a fourth grade teacher, Sarah earned a Masters degree in writing curriculum, but decided that writing children’s books was much more fun! When she isn’t writing or reading, you can find her dancing to old records, playing board games or watching movies with her husband and three kids. She has a mini-goldendoodle named Oliver who likes to sleep on her feet while she writes. Sarah lives with her family in Victor, NY.