Racial Divisions in the Progressive Era


YWCA Poster,
Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-7458

Despite their large number of organizations and successful reform efforts, black women were largely excluded from white women’s reform organizations. Black women and their clubs were largely excluded from the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Other organizations, such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the YWCA, were segregated, with black women forming their own local chapters. In addition, white women’s organizations largely ignored issues of racism, such as lynching or the disenfranchisement of black voters. In addition, in their reform efforts, white women were often culturally or racially insensitive, attempting to impose white middle class cultural values on immigrant and black women.

Examples of cooperation between white and black reformers are few. Despite its numerous flaws, the YWCA did allow for some collaboration between African American and white women. The Women’s Missionary Council of the Southern Methodist Church, the Woman’s Committee of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation (CIC), and the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching are examples of the few other organizations that promoted cooperation between female white and black reformers.






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