Fannie Barrier Williams
February 12, 1855 – March 4, 1944
All Souls Unitarian Church of Chicago
Williams grew up free along with her parents and grandparents in Brockport, New York. They were one of the few Black families in town. She was educated in northern public schools. Her father was a successful businessman. Williams was active in the Negro Women’s Club Movement and was a prominent speaker and activist. She was the first Black graduate of the State Normal School (now SUNY College at Brockport) in 1870. She spoke at several World Parliament of Religions events, including the inaugural Parliament in 1893. Her topic was “The Religious Mission of the Colored Race.” She was a Member of All Souls (Unitarian) Church of Chicago along with Cecilia Parker Wooley, where the Rev. Jenkin Lloyd Jones was the minister. She and Wooley enjoyed a friendship that spanned forty years. She delivered the eulogy at her friend’s funeral many years later. Williams helped found two interracial benevolent institutions. She was also the founder of the Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses in 1891. Williams fought against employment discrimination and segregated housing. She also worked with Jane Addams at Hull House. She challenged the Chicago Woman’s Club, a premier women’s reform organization (founded in 1876) after she was nominated for membership and the all-white women’s Club did not want to integrate. In 1905 she and Woolley founded the Frederick Douglass Center.