A Woman to Know: Adella Hunt Logan

Government of the people, for the people and by the people is but partially realized so long as woman has no vote. — Adella Hunt Logan

Government of the people, for the people and by the people is but partially realized so long as woman has no vote. — Adella Hunt Logan

(image via Wikimedia Commons)

Adella was born in the midst of the Civil War in rural Georgia, to a free woman of color and to a white farmer. At age 20, she began teaching at Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where the students affectionately referred to her as “Lady Principal.” She’d go on to teach there for three decades, eventually marrying one of her fellow teachers, Warren Logan.

While at Tuskegee, Adella worked tirelessly for education reform, believing that her own children deserved an education equal to that of their white peers. She moved in next door to her friend and colleague Booker T. Washington, enlisting his support for her cause. As she became more deeply involved in the booming suffrage movement, she found herself confronting racism within the movement’s supposedly egalitarian ranks.

Because Adella’s fair complexion allowed her to sometimes pass as white, she could ride the Jim Crow railway undetected. She could also infiltrate segregated suffragist meetings, which she did to pass information back to the integrated Tuskegee Women’s Club. She began writing, traveling and speaking about her own hopes for the movement. As she told one audience, “The colored American believes in equal justice to all, regardless of race, color, creed or sex, and longs for the day when the United States shall indeed have a government of the people, for the people and by the people — even including the colored people.”

In 1913, Adella worked with fellow activist Mary Church Terrell to desegregate the national suffrage parade. “If white American women with all their natural and acquired advantages need the ballot — how much more do black Americans, male and female, need the strong defense of a vote?” she told fellow activists.

But just two years later, stricken with depression and suffering from kidney infections, her family found Adella in the midst of a nervous breakdown. She’d been increasingly dismayed at the slowness of progress, and upon discovering her husband’s infidelity, she set a small fire in his office as revenge. Afterwards, her family committed her to a sanitarium in Michigan, where she underwent multiple rounds of electroshock therapy.

She returned to Alabama just one more time, to attend the 1915 memorial service for her longtime friend Booker T. Washington. Just before the ceremony, she jumped from the fifth floor of a Tuskegee Institute building, committing suicide.

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