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Nellie Griswold Francis

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NOVEMBER 7, 1874–DECEMBER 13, 1969 

Nellie Griswold Francis was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1874. She was a suffragist, civil rights activist, and community organizer. Her family moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1883. The only Black student in her class, she gave a speech at her high school graduation in 1891 about the need for equal rights for African Americans.

In 1914, Francis resigned from her job at a publishing company to become a full-time activist. During her career in Minnesota, she joined or founded over a dozen civic organizations. She served as the first president of the Everywoman Suffrage Club, a Black women’s suffrage organization that became known as the Everywoman Progressive Council after the ratification of the 19th Amendment. She also wrote an anti-lynching bill that became a Minnesota law in 1921.

Francis moved to Monrovia, Liberia, with her diplomat husband William in 1927. When he died there two years later, Francis moved back to her home state of Tennessee. She died in 1969 at age 95.

 

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