First Black Woman to Sit on Republican National Committee Honored at Carnegie Library

by Xara Aziz
Georgia Women of Achievement

A Georgia native who helped register 40,000 Black women in the state to vote is finally getting her flowers.

Mamie George Williams, the first Black woman to sit on the Republican National Committee and the first woman to speak on the floor of the Republican National Convention has been honored by Velma Maia Thomas Fann, an Atlanta-based historian and author who worked to get Williams’ historic marker installed at Savannah’s Dixon Park last month.

“How do you condense [Williams’] life of service into 300 or so words?” Fann asked at the event to memorialize Williams’ life. “I struggled with this. I struggled with what to highlight and what to leave out. Which words to capitalize. I struggled with language. Mamie lived at a time when we were ‘colored,’ ‘Negro’ and worse.”

She continued: “When she held her own meetings, she said the Republican Party has to look like everybody; so, she had men, women, white and Black in her delegation. She lived on this street. So, we thought we’d put this here so that Mamie could watch over it and hold this as a sacred spot.”

The Georgia Historical Society unveiled the sacred spot, with the following text inscribed:

Mamie George Williams, a lifelong resident of Savannah, lived and worked near here. A political and civic leader, Williams volunteered for many organizations, including the Red Cross, the Girl Scouts, and the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. A suffragist, she organized voter campaigns and registered African-American women to vote following passage of the 19th Amendment. Nonetheless, African Americans were denied full voting rights, due to Jim Crow laws. In 1924, Williams became the first woman from Georgia and the first African-American woman in the nation to serve on the Republican National Committee. A community leader, she led fundraising efforts for a home in Macon for African-American girls and served as vice president of Carver State Bank. She worked with the African-American Girl Scouts, financially assisting with establishing their Log Cabin Camp in Hancock County.

Before the historic unveiling, Fann hosted a gathering honoring Williams at Carnegie Library, a historic branch founded by Black residents when racial segregation permeated the town.

“Just a little bit about the library: the Women’s Suffrage Club of Chatham County was organized here [on] June 13, 1919,” Williams said in front of a packed community room of attendees. “And Mamie George Williams attended several of the meetings. So, we have a lot going on here and a lot to be thankful for about his tremendous and wonderful branch.”

Chassidy Malloy, the first African American president of the League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia echoed Fann’s comments, reiterating the contribution Williams made for generations that would follow her.

“I can certainly acknowledge Mamie for her contributions in the past for getting us to this point today. Williams’ power as a political organizer ran aground during what historians call the Lily White Movement, an effort by white Republicans to oust African Americans from the party — especially from positions of power.”

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