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Abstract

Mary Church Terrell (1863–1954) demonstrated the philosophy of calm courage many times in a long life of activism. In the middle of her life, when three companies of African-American soldiers in Brownsville, Texas, were dismissed without honor and without a hearing in 1906, she readily came to their defense. Their dismissals followed a racial disturbance during which one white man was killed and several others wounded in Brownsville. Terrell, at the urging of some African-American leaders, went to see Secretary of War William Howard Taft to request that the action against the black troops be rescinded until they received a fair hearing. Her request was granted after Taft appealed to President Theodore Roosevelt, and the Constitution League, a civil rights organization, sent in lawyers to hear the soldiers’ side of the story.

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