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Andrews Library features exhibit on Mary Church Terrell

Megan Kaplan

Contributing Writer

As a campus with stated core values centering around diversity and inclusion, Wooster’s ideals are encapsulated by the Mary Church Terrell exhibit currently being held in the lobby of Andrews Library. The exhibit explores the life work of Terrell, a devoted and well-known suffragist, through four separate lenses: learning, labor, leadership and legacy. Through this look at Terrell’s life, the exhibit also documents the sobering racial inequalities faced by all African Americans throughout the 20th century. 

Wooster has been selected as the first institution to host the traveling exhibit, due to the fact that it originated at a nearby school –– Oberlin College and Conservatory. Oberlin was the first institution of higher learning to admit students regardless of race or gender, and Terrell was, in fact, an early alumna. 

Today, Terrell is regarded as one of the 20th century’s most renowned suffragists and civil rights leaders. Not only was she the founding member of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), but also a signer of the charter that established the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People (NAACP). In addition to her political importance, Terrell was a respected educator, writer and lecturer. 

College librarian Irene Herold encourages students to take a study break and enjoy the information and primary documents detailing Terrell’s life, which will be on display until March 1. Herold feels that the exhibit is a natural progression from the Hidden Science Superstars project in Timken Library a project that recognized underrepresented individuals in S.T.E.M. areas. 

Both exhibits serve as an opportunity for the stories of underrepresented individuals to be highlighted in Wooster’s library buildings.

“It was time to host something that spoke to diversity and inclusion … [that acknowledges] a female leader, and someone who contributed to our country’s history. Terrell was the perfect choice,” Herold said. 

In conjunction with the exhibit, a Justice Dialogue about Mary Church Terrell was held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Wooster invited one of Oberlin’s community members who worked with the archival holdings to speak during the Dialogue. Herold stated that “the point [of the event] was to talk about someone who attended a local college, [Mary Church Terrell], and her journey to contributing to social justice,” with the ultimate hope that our students will see that it is truly possible to make a contribution to social justice. 

Mary Church Terrell epitomizes the Wooster spirit, and our students can greatly benefit from a brief look at her life. A look at the exhibit will provide students with inspiration to do good –– as well as some inspiration to do our best in our classes. A quote from Terrell herself states that she “will not shrink from understanding what seems wise and good … [she] will struggle all the more earnestly to reach the goal.”

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