Addie Waites Hunton
(1875–1943) Addie was a leading African-American reformer -- a powerful force in the YWCA/YMCA movement and a founder of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW).
As the first African-American employee of the Young Women's Christian Association, a segregated institution at that time, Addie leveraged the power of its national network to support civil rights. Her husband William Alphaeus Hunton was the first African-American employee of the Young Men's Christian Association. They both traveled extensively for their jobs and moved several times. She was a leader in every community in which they settled: first in Richmond, VA, then in Atlanta, and finally in Brooklyn.
Addie Hunton was a well-known speaker and writer from 1900 onward, publishing in popular periodicals like Voice of the Negro, Colored American Magazine, and later the NAACP's The Crisis. As a leader in the very white world of the YWCA, she pushed that organization to be more engaged in fighting lynching and discrimination. At the same time, she urged African-Americans to appreciate the power of working with the YWCA/YMCA despite its segregated structure.
Her experiences during World War I bitterly informed her activism. After her husband died in 1916, Addie accepted the YMCA's request to go to Europe to support African-American troops. Historian Adrienne Lash-Jones describes her experience: "Upon reaching France for this assignment, she found that she was one of only three Black women permitted to work among two hundred thousand racially segregated Black troops."
Work in the war effort exposed Addie to the most blatant racial discrimination that she had ever experienced, as she witnessed the many ways that Black troops had to endure officially sanctioned racial prejudice and segregation while they served in the United States armed forces. Her book, Two Colored Women with the American Expeditionary Forces (1920) co-written with Kathryn M. Johnson, is most revealing of the bitterness and indignation that she felt as a result of the entire experience. Her book also revealed the smoldering anger within the Black community as they fought to participate in the war effort, and their disappointment with the lack of progress that their participation made.
Upon returning, Addie joined the women's peace movement. Due to racism in the white-led peace groups, Addie Hunton and Mary Margaret (Mrs. Booker T.) Washington created a new peace group, the International Council of Women of the Darker Races. She traveled the world for that group and for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, a more deliberately integrated organization.
In addition to leading both of those peace groups, Addie remained an active board member - often president or executive committee - of NACW, NAACP, YWCA, and the Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs. Bio by Rachel B. Tiven.
Cypress Hills Cemetery
833 Jamaica Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11208