Common Heritage

African American Women

At the center of the African American community are women. African American women have traditionally filled multiple roles: mothers, caretakers and providers, support systems, and jack of all trades. Historically, whether engaged in professional or domestic work or operating simply as members of working-class families aspiring for middle-class status; African American women have played an essential part in the community-building process.

Image: Nettie Sanford, Milledgeville, Ga, circa 1935. Digitized during Common Heritage Community Harvest Event, October 5, 2019. Georgia College Special Collections.

Post-Civil War realities for African Americans promoted a shared responsibility between men and women to obtain financial stability. African American women strived for societal change, and actively defined their importance in the growth of community agency. They structured community life around the core foundational institutions of family, church, education, social clubs, hospitals, and health clinics. Community-focused organizations empowered African American women to assume new roles as leaders, trailblazers, social bridge builders, and advocates.

Image: Naomi Hicks, Milledgeville, Ga, circa 1965. Digitized during Common Heritage Community Harvest Event, October 5, 2019. Georgia College Special Collections.

Organizations, such as the Milledgeville Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs (FCWC), evidenced this agency. The FCWC was a part of the Georgia Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, and an affiliate of the National Association of Colored Women, Inc., founded in 1896 and headquartered in Washington, DC. Drawing from their motto, Lifting As We Climb, the organization dedicated itself to uplifting women, children, families, the home, and the community. The organization implemented community service and education to empower African Americans to take their proper and rightful place in society as citizens, community leaders, parents, and family members. Helmed by talented local leadership, such as Essie Slater serving as president of the Milledgeville FCWC, these organizations facilitated transformative initiatives such as forming health clinics, establishing elder care, and growing libraries for African American communities across the rural South.

Image: Lizzie Binion Lewis, Milledgeville, Ga, circa 1955. Digitized during Common Heritage Community Harvest Event, March 7, 2020. Georgia College Special Collections.