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MARCH 1, 1843–?

Naomi Anderson was born in 1843 in Michigan City, Indiana, to a middle-class African American family. As a young child, she was not allowed to attend Michigan City’s public schools, which at the time admitted only white children. Her mother hired a private tutor, and at age 12, Anderson was considered such a talented poet that she was admitted to a previously all-white public school.

After an 1868 move to Chicago, Anderson began working with the International Organization of Grand Templars to promote temperance (a movement against drinking alcohol), and spoke in support of women’s suffrage. She wrote articles that were published in major newspapers, a rare feat for a Black woman at that time. Throughout the following years, Anderson and her family moved all over the Midwest, and she kept lecturing and writing articles and poetry everywhere they went. Her work often focused on the injustices Black women faced due to both their gender and their race. Her best-known work is her 1876 “Centennial Poem,” in which she called for equal rights for Black Americans.

In 1895, Anderson moved to California, where she focused her efforts on campaigning for women’s suffrage. She was praised for her work there by other suffragists, including Susan B. Anthony. Little is known about Anderson’s life after the 1890s, including the year of her death.

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