Talbert Timeline


1866a. Mary Burnett Talbert (1866-1923) was born in Ohio as Mary Burnett. William H. Talbert was born in Red Bluff, California to Robert Talbert and Anna Harris Talbert.


1886b. At the age of nineteen, Mary Burnett received a literary degree from Oberlin College She moved to Little Rock, Arkansas.


Burnett becames a high school principal. She was the first Black high school principal in the state of Arkansas.



1891. Mary Burnett Talbert moves to Buffalo as the wife of wealthy businessman William H. Talbert. Her only a child, a daughter Sarah May, was borna year later.


1894 Mary B. Talbert received a second degree. This gets little murky-- this seems to be based on a provision that "Graduates in the former Literary Course in 1887, or any previous year, may pursue further study "in absentia," and receive, on examination, the degree of Bachelor of Philosophy. [ref: UBarchivist 5/17/00]

Here is what is normally written here "In 1894 Mary Talbert becomes the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. from University of Buffalo." However, that statement (even the degree) is under considerable doubt. Here's what I got from the University at Buffalo archivist:

"I wish we could claim her as a UB graduate but we can't. The story that she got a PhD from UB has been around for some time, but I've checked the graduation lists thoroughly for her name. During her time, UB consisted of the schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy and Law, with liberal arts being added in 1913, and we didn't even give BA's until the early 1920s. By the time of Talbert's death, we had only granted two PhD's in total." [ref: UBarchivist 5/16/00]

Perhaps this Bachelor of Philosophy, as a second degree, has in time mutated to "Doctorate of Philosophy" and since she lived in Buffalo at the time, confusion transports the degree from Oberlin to Buffalo.

Note records show Joseph Robert Love earned an MD at UB sometime before 1880

1899. Talbert is one of the founding members of the Phyllis Wheatley Club of Colored Women. This remarkable group of women, the city's first affiliate of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, set an ambitious program of service to others in order to achieve the NACW mission

1900. In November 1900, Mary Talbert, along with other members of the Phyllis Wheatley Club of Colored Women, organized a protest rally at the Michigan Avenue Baptist Church. They called on the Board of Managers of the Pan American Exposition to include the Negro Exhibit, an exhibit that presented the achievements of blacks since Emancipation, in the upcoming Exposition. The group also advocated for the appointment of a colored commissioner. Mary Talbert was proposed as a most able and capable individual to represent the Negro community in this position.

1901. In contrast to the degrading Old Plantation Exhibition at the 1901 Pan American Exposition, Buffalo's Black community lead by Mrs. John Dover, James Ross, and Mary Talbert met at the Michigan Street Baptist Church to promote a Negro Education Exhibit such as Booker T. Washington's exhibit in Atlanta's 1895.

1905. W.E.B. Dubois, John Hope, Monroe Trotter and 27 others met secretly in the home of Mary B. Talbert. This began the Niagara Movement, forerunner of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

1910. While serving as president of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Association, Mary Talbert was responsible for the restoration of the Frederick Douglass Home in Anacostia, Maryland. She also served as a delegate to the International Council of Women in Norway, and lectured internationally internationally on race relations and women's rights. For more on Douglass see Douglass.Mary Talbert and the Phylis Wheatley Club.

1911. Mary Talbert becomes a charter member of the Empire Federation of Women's Club. Shen was the group's second president from 1912-1916.

1916. Mary Talbert becomes president (the first of two two-year terms) of the National Association of Colored Women. As president and as vice president and director of the NAACP, Talbert joined the struggle for first-class citizenship for her people. As chairman of the Anti-Lynching Committee, she launched a crusade for passage of the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. She traveled thousands of miles nationwide speaking to mixed audiences to gain support for the bill and her Crisis article Women & Colored Women demonstrates her inspiration.

1917. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Mary Talbert assisted in the war loan drives, personally soliciting the purchase of thousands of dollars in Liberty Bonds. She becomes a Red Cross nurse with the American expeditionary forces in France. Returning home at the close of the war, she found that the idealistic slogan of fighting to make the world safe for democracy was false for the American Negro.

1921. Talbert is rebuffed by national feminist group.

1922. Talbert is the first Black woman to win the NAACP Springarn Award.

1923. Mary Burnette Talbert dies in 1923. She is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery and Garden Mausoleum [1411 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, NY 14209-1110 (716) 885-1600]. See the map and picture at http://www.forest-lawn.com/maps.htm

The University of Buffalo has a building named Mary Burnett Talbert Hall.

Picture and location of the Mary Talbert plaque.

Mary Talbert and the Phylis Wheatley Club

Excerpt from

Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894-1994
by Deborah Gray White

Patrolling their communities, teaching children to read, improving homemaking skills - there were few things that black women's clubs did not do. Everywhere the Phyllis [sic] Wheatley Club of Buffalo, New York, turned they found a task. Early in the century the club forced the Buffalo police to focus on crimes of vice in Buffalo's black neighborhoods. Mary Talbert, a future president of the NACW, and her club were so demanding that Talbert was invited to join the citywide committee that monitored police enforcement. Through her, the club lobbied for police protection in black neighborhoods. Along with other women's clubs in the city, it established girls' clubs where delicate subjects like personal hygiene and moral improvement were addressed. In the 1920s the Phyllis Wheatley Club helped form a junior YWCA and a Buffalo chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. They donated books by black authors to the city's public library, conducted community seminars on the power of the black female vote, and organized political clubs to get the vote out. Like clubs in other parts of the country, Buffalo women regularly visited jails, established kindergartens, and supported homes for aged adults or wayward girls.

Two letters concerning Talbert's failure to speak to feminist groups.

1. Mary White Ovington, letter to Lucy Burns of the National Woman's Party (17th December, 1920)

I am writing to you as an advisory member of the National Woman's Party asking if you will arrange that at the meeting, February fifteenth, a colored woman be invited to speak. I would suggest as the speaker, Mrs. Mary B. Talbert, until last June president of the Federation of Colored Women, and this summer one of the ten official members of the International Council of Women which met at Christiana. Mrs. Talbert is able, liberal in thought, and perhaps the best known colored woman in the United States today.

There was little voting and much terrorizing of Negroes in the South during the past elections and at Ocoee, Florida, there was a massacre. But equally sinister was the refusing to register women at such a place as Hampton, Virginia, where Hampton Institute has through many years endeavored to maintain kindly feelings between the two races, and yet where colored women were so insulted when they attempted to register that one woman said: "I could kill the clerk who questioned me; I could kill his wife and children."

If the South means to awaken a spirit like this it will eventually have war to face. But I believe that the Negro woman can win her right to vote if she is upheld by the rest of the country. The thinking southern woman is generally more fairminded than the southern man, but she cannot secure justice for the colored woman without she has the backing of all of us.

Will you not therefore, endeavor to have a committee appointed out of your great meeting in February which shall investigate and take some action regarding the status of the colored woman? The Woman's Party must have in its membership, South as well as North, women of broad enough vision and deep enough purpose to attack this problem. And if the women attack it, it will be solved.

2. Mary White Ovington, letter to Alice Paul of the National Woman's Party (4 January 1921)

Not being a member of the National Woman's Party, I wrote to the members of the National Advisory Council whom I knew asking them if they would interest themselves in having a colored woman appear on the program of the Woman's Party Conference in Washington in February. Mrs. Brannan wrote me enthusiastically that the New York State Branch of the Woman's Party unanimously decided in favor of a colored speaker upon the program, but she telephoned me yesterday that you did not find this possible and asked me to address my communication directly to you.

The difficulty, as I understand it, seems to be that it has been necessary for the Woman's Party to restrict its program to representatives from organizations which have undertaken a more or less distinct feminist program and that Mrs. Talbert, whose name I suggested as today the most distinguished colored woman speaker in the country and as an ex-President of the National Association of Colored Women, would not be able to speak at your session because she does not represent a feminist organization.

back to The African American History of Western New York










Since 4/96,

visitors to the African American History of Western New York.