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Resolution RS2020-207

A resolution honoring Nashville African American suffragists including Dr. Mattie E. Coleman, Nettie Langston Napier, and J. Frankie Pierce, who successfully fought for the vote for women.

WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Council, in collaboration with the Council’s Women’s Caucus and the Mayor’s Council on the State of Women, is sponsoring a series of resolutions honoring the women’s suffrage movement to honor the Centennial celebration of the ratification of the 19th Amendment in August 2020; and

WHEREAS, Tennessee played an important role in the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment—the final state necessary for it to become law; and

WHEREAS, in recognition of the 100-year anniversary of women’s right to vote, the Metropolitan Council recognizes the essential contributions of Nashville’s African American suffragists both to the vote for women and to racial justice; and

WHEREAS, despite Jim Crow legislation that enforced racial segregation and despite the racial divisions between African Americans and white women in Tennessee society, African American leaders developed a strong network to promote votes for all women; and

WHEREAS, African American women’s organizations made votes for women their agenda for racial justice and for the betterment of the entire community; and

WHEREAS, African American women’s organizations were affiliated with and nourished by Nashville’s black churches and church publications, and also grew out of the legal, theological, and medical educations made accessible by such institutions as Fisk University, Walden University, and Meharry Medical College; and

WHEREAS, the Nashville Globe newspaper reported upon the progress made by African American women’s organizations in the betterment of the entire community, and in 1918, reported on more than twenty social clubs in Nashville, some with as many as two-hundred members; and

WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Council records that the strong network of suffragists included Nettie Langston Napier, physicians Mattie E. Coleman and Josie E. Wells, J. Frankie Pierce, Fisk University Registrar Minnie Lou Crosthwaite, Hattie Smith Jackson, and Georgia Bradford Boyd, whose family was a publisher of the Nashville Globe; and

WHEREAS, the African American suffragists Nettie Langston Napier and J. Frankie Pierce worked together to bring the advocacy organization, The National Association of Colored Women (NACW), to Nashville in 1897 for its first conference, and both suffragists sought through that organization and others to promote good child care for working mothers, temperance, education, and preventive public health; and

WHEREAS, Nettie Langston Napier established the Day Homes Club, later known as Porter Homestead, a Nashville settlement house that provided day care for working African American mothers and healthcare to help meet the needs of the poor; and

WHEREAS, Nettie Langston Napier was the daughter of U.S. Virginia Congressman John Langston, and the wife of Republican political leader and entrepreneur James P. Napier, who was appointed Register of the U.S. Treasury by President Taft from 1911 to 1913; and

WHEREAS, Nettie and James Napier left Washington D.C. in protest and returned to Nashville when President Woodrow Wilson segregated employees in the federal departments; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Mattie E. Coleman, born in 1870, was the child of an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, and later a member of the Colored Methodist Episcopal (CME) church, and retained a lifelong Christian faith and driving ambition for herself and for racial justice; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Mattie Coleman was one of the nation’s first black female physicians after graduating from Meharry Medical College in 1906 and served as the state tuberculosis adviser; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Mattie Coleman was a founder of the Women’s Connectional Missionary Council which advocated for women’s leadership positions in the CME churches and led the Colored Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defense as it supported World War I fund drives and health programs for all soldiers, white and black alike; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Coleman enjoyed a lifelong friendship with another black suffragist, J. Frankie Pierce, and after the 19th Amendment was ratified, worked with her to convince the legislature to fund a vocational school for Tennessee’s black girls and administered the vocational school together from 1920 until the death of Dr. Coleman in 1943; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Coleman, J. Frankie Pierce, and white suffragist Catherine Kenny collaborated across the color line, and each registered thousands of women voters who helped usher in progressive government and the defeat of political bosses in some cities; and

WHEREAS, born in 1864 of Nellie Seay, an enslaved but educated mother, J. Frankie Pierce founded the Blue Triangle League, known as the “colored branch” of the YWCA and sought a “square deal” for her race; and

WHEREAS, it is fitting and proper that the Metropolitan Council recognize and celebrate the African American suffragists and racial justice advocates including Dr. Mattie E. Coleman, J. Frankie Pierce, Nettie Langston Napier, Minnie Lou Crosthwaite, Hattie Smith Jackson, Dr. Josie E. Well, and Georgia Bradford Boyd, and recognize their work as community leaders to bring about the vote for women.

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY:

Section 1. The Metropolitan Council, in celebration of the Centennial year of the ratification of the 19th Amendment in August 2020, hereby registers and records its praise for Nashville’s African American suffragists who greatly contributed to racial justice and votes for women across the entire country.

Section 2. This Resolution shall take effect from and after its adoption, the welfare of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County requiring it.

Sponsor(s)

Nancy VanReece, Kathleen Murphy, Sharon Hurt, Zulfat Suara, Antoniette Lee, Tanaka Vercher, Delishia Porterfield, Sandra Sepulveda, Kyonzté Toombs, Angie Henderson, Mary Carolyn Roberts, Tonya Hancock, Emily Benedict, Ginny Welsch, Courtney Johnston, Jennifer Gamble, Gloria Hausser, Russ Bradford, Brett Withers, Sean Parker, Jeff Syracuse, Bob Nash, Zachary Young, Freddie O'Connell, John Rutherford, Burkley Allen, Brandon Taylor, Dave Rosenberg

Legislative History

Referred toRules, Confirmations, and Public Elections Committee

IntroducedFebruary 18, 2020

AdoptedFebruary 18, 2020

ApprovedFebruary 19, 2020

ByMayor Cooper's signature

Requests for ADA accommodation should be directed to the Metropolitan Clerk at 615-862-6770.

Last Modified: 02/20/2020 2:08 PM