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Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, 77, Dies; Historian Recognized Black Suffragists

Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, a historian who helped bring to light the long-suppressed role of black women in the women’s suffrage movement, died on Dec. 25 at her home in Columbia, Md. She was 77.

Her daughter, Jeanna Penn, confirmed the death. The cause had not yet been determined, she said.

Dr. Terborg-Penn, a professor of history at Morgan State University in Baltimore for more than three decades, was the author of seven books, most notably, “African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920” (1998).

It was one of the first book-length examinations of black women in the suffrage movement, and it challenged the existing narrative that was dominated, and framed, by white activists like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Dr. Terborg-Penn’s book was a counterweight to the six-volume 1887 work, “History of Women’s Suffrage,” edited by Anthony, Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage. That study more or less erased from the picture the many black women who Dr. Terborg-Penn said had attended suffrage meetings, organized suffrage clubs and promoted the cause. Stanton, moreover, had expressed racist views, especially when arguing that women should have the vote before black men.

Dr. Terborg-Penn identified more than 120 black women, including Mary Church Terrell and Sarah Parker Remond, and described “hundreds of nameless black women” who had participated in the suffrage fight but whose activity had been little noted and their speeches seldom recorded.

Read entire article at NYT