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That group, the Detroit Study Club, had existed for over a century but was not widely known beyond its local context. In the meantime, read our summary below for more about the Detroit Study Club. On March 2,Michigan music educator Gabrielle Pelham invited five friends to her Detroit home for the purpose of study. Pauline Smith, Mrs. Wil Anderson, and Mrs. Upon their meeting, the new association that would later be called The Detroit Study Club was born.
Pelham and her guests gathered regularly to expand their knowledge of cultural and social issues. They began by immersing themselves in writings of the popular British poet Robert Browning and therefore first called their group The Browning Club. Today, the Detroit Study Club looks often to its roots. Club members of the s were well educated and economically privileged women whose families had often been generations removed from slavery. The families of founding members were intimately tied to the black Underground Railroad activist network and the later black professional class of Detroit, both as wives and children of prominent men, and more rarely, as professionals in their own right.
Descendants of Asher and Catherine Aray, such as their granddaughter, Mrs. John A. Loomis, and descendants of William Ferguson, continue to serve as officeholders and active members in the Detroit Study Club in the present day. Sammuel H. Russel, 6th President.
They sought to do the latter by hosting influential thinkers and reformers working toward racial uplift. Washington was to lecture and then respond to questions, promoting general conversation among attendees.
Proceeds from the event went toward the education of underprivileged students to increase their opportunities to attend and succeed in school. In addition to hosting Booker T. Washington, the Detroit Study Club also engaged in fruitful dialogue with another major figure of the Progressive Era and the black intelligentsia: Professor W.
The minutes of the Detroit Study Club record the receipt of a letter from W. DuBois in DuBois reached out to club members first in this letter exchange, asking the women for information relating to charities and other institutions maintained by African Americans.
The group responded in a return missive, and members extended thanks to an executive board member for her outstanding correspondence with DuBois. While W. In a brief dispatch published inDuBois praised the National Association of Colored Women for their physical appearance and feminized southern accents, rather than the intellectual capital they provided to the racial uplift movement. In his eyes, black women were aesthetically pleasing symbols of the fight while men carried out the masculinized work of putting ideas into action.
Even as black women organizers in Detroit and elsewhere ably engaged with men like DuBois, they were acutely aware of gender prejudice among the leading men of their race. Their planning of a speech by Washington and written exchange with DuBois show the Detroit Study Club members to be women of letters and ideas, but they also devoted themselves to community outreach and the promotion of the public welfare.
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Fannie Richards served as the first president of the Wheatley Home. They used this communal domestic space to express care and generosity for other black women in need.
In the twenty-first century, the Detroit Study Club continues its outreach by upholding traditions of educational uplift and community affirmation. The club serves as a reading and current affairs group, as well as a social support network for its members.
Study Club women are also a wellspring of inspiration and advancement for the larger community, contributing through their professional endeavors in multiple fields. Current members pride themselves on taking time to continue older traditions that showcase black civility and grace, such as penning congratulatory notes when students stand out for their intellectual accomplishments in the Detroit area.
When the University Prep Science and Math youth chess teams of Detroit won national tournaments inDetroit Study Club members delivered handwritten congratulatory notes and hosted a reception for the champions. Members have been convening, reading, expanding their minds and contributing to community growth for more than a century.
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Committed to directing their own intellectual and spiritual development, these women launched an association that began with studies of the literary arts and later extended into community welfare work. In the decades after its founding, the Detroit Study Club was shaped by a fierce passion for elevating the individual life of the mind and bettering the social life of the black family and community. The Detroit Study Club has been recognized nationally and locally. President Bill Clinton commended the club on May 10, for one hundred years of service, cooperative spirit, and strength of conviction.
During their centennial anniversary year, then president Dorothy Kispert described the Detroit Study Club as eager to face a new millennium with renewed commitment to carrying forward its longstanding values.
This class project would not have been possible without the will and support of the Detroit Study Club. We depended on the crucial guidance of archivist Dawn Eurich, the assistance of other staff members, and the support of director Mark Bowden at the Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library.
We are grateful to Professor Tiya Miles, who motivated and guided us, and to Dylan Nelson, who helped organize our archival research efforts, supplemented our class writing on the Arays and the McCoys, and co-edited our essay. Tiya Miles.