Jacqueline Ann Rouse, Lugenia Burns Hope: Black Southern Reformer

By Cash, Floris Barnett | Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, July 31, 1990 | Go to article overview

Jacqueline Ann Rouse, Lugenia Burns Hope: Black Southern Reformer


Cash, Floris Barnett, Afro-Americans in New York Life and History


Jacqueline Ann Rouse, Lugenia Burns Hope: Black southern Reformer

Jacqueline Ann Rouse has written a scholarly account of an exceptional woman, Lugenia Burns Hope (1871-1947). This study broadens our knowledge of black women and increases the scope of the literature on African American women's history. Hope's life falls within the framework of black liberation and women's liberation. The latter movement is a part of the consciousness of black women, yet, it has been understated and omitted by most scholars of black history and women's history. Historically, black women activists have participated in both movements from slavery to the present. Our foremothers, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frances E.W. Harper, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary Church Terrell, and Mary McLeod Bethune were concerned with racial and sexual politics.

The dominant themes found throughout the book depict black women reformers as, both, agents of social change and as leaders in the struggle for women's rights. Lugenia Hope, Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and other 19th century black women were conscious of the fact that true freedom demanded liberation from racist and sexist oppression.

Hope was part of a network of black women who were community activists and leaders of regional and national club organizations. These reformers were not simply altruistic in their objectives. As "race women" they promoted equality and social justice for all Americans. Hope was involved with groups such as the National Association of Colored Women, the Southeastern Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, the National Council of Negro Women, and the International Council of Women of Darker Races. Black women organized their own women's clubs and organizations to promote racial uplift and women's rights.

Born in St. Louis and reared in Chicago, Lugenia Began her community activism with social work agencies such as the Kings Daughters Association of Cook County and Jane Adam's Hull House. In 1897 she married John Hope, the first black president of Morehouse College and, later, Atlanta University. In addition to her active participation in the local community, Lugenia Hope was the first lady and role model for students of these institutions for a total of thirty-seven years. She was able to carry on, simultaneously, the duties of wife, mother, and reformer because of her independent spirit and organizational skills. Like other activists in the black experience, she was motivated by concern for others and interest in community building.

Lugenia Hope and members of the southern female network pursued their work of racial and feminist uplift with missionary zeal. She was committed to uplifting her race and improving her less fortunate sisters. Like Margaret Washington, Janie Pointer Barnett, Nannie Helen Burroughs, and other southern reformers, she attempted to carry Victorian virtues to the new masses of black women. …

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