Marian Evans Melnick, who created this in-character presentation about an activist working for equal rights, suffrage and the recognition of black women and the black experience, will portray Williams and use a modern “magic lantern” to show images from her life, 1855-1944.
During the 1850s, Fannie Barrier Williams grew up in Brockport, New York, where black and white families mingled and were educated together as equals. When she moved to the South to be a teacher, she discovered what most women of color in those civil war era days experienced, segregation and personal indignities.
She said, “I had missed the training that made this continued humiliation possible,” and returned to the North.
She lived and worked in Chicago at the time of the World Columbian Exposition in 1893. She and other women who had been working as activists protested the failure to include Black American contributions to society in the Exposition. Her connections and efforts led to many positive changes for African Americans and women, both locally and nationally. To prepare this characterization, Melnick embedded Williams’ story, much of it in her own words from her “Autobiography of a Negro Woman” in research about the history of the period during which Fannie lived. The Arlington Vision 2020 Diversity Task Group, Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Observance Committee of Arlington and Robbins Library invite adults and high school students to come and “Meet Fannie Barrier Williams.” The event is free.