Nannie Helen Burroughs

Statement Made at the Close of her Annual Report to Woman's Convention, at St. Louis - Sept. 8, 1938

Nannie Helen Burroughs
September 08, 1938— St. Louis, Missouri
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The bold-faced text below was underlined in the original transcript.




  1. I was not at Tuskegee meeting because I was not well. However, had I been informed that The National Training School question was coming up, I would have gone at any cost.
  2. Many of the statements made there and in at least two papers since the meeting are not only false but in one instance, definitely libelous.
  3. The Training School is a woman’s institution. It was conceived, developed, managed, owned and controlled by Negro Christian women. In this particular it is not only unique and successful, but holds a place of respect and love in your hearts and in the hearts of thousands of others.

Definitely, we have something on Lincoln Heights--something worth owning and glorifying. It has been put there through sweat and blood, toils and tears. It is the life work of women by women and for women. It is too sacred to be desecrated by confusion and too valuable to be thrown away by differences of opinion over policy. Men and women, organization and churches have given gifts, prayers, faith, work and hope to make The Training School live and grow.

I want Negro women to have absolute control of this property--that is what was originally intended--that is what it has been--and that is how it should always remain.

  1. In setting up the school there was never any thought of personal ownership or personal glory, but a desire to make it safe for itself. It was the purpose of the women of this Convention to have an institution of which Negro people could be proud and around which all who are interested in the development of Christian womanhood could rally.
  2. I believe and will always believe that The National Training School should be owned, controlled and held enviolate by a board of Trustees by a board of Trustees for the Woman’s Convention. The right to do this and the security of the property for The National Training School, as a body corporate, must be set forth in the charter of the school so that neither the National Baptist Convention nor its board of Directors can dictate, dominate or control this institution for women.
  3. The present charter of the National Baptist Convention, taken out since The Training School was chartered, definitely denies the women that right, and places all rights of management and control, even of the Woman’s Auxiliary, in the hands of the Board of Directors of the National Baptist Convention. The National Baptist Convention is distinctly and as it should be, a “man’s organization.” Negro Baptist women should have a parallel national organization just as distinct and powerful. Women are not members of the Board of Directors of the National Baptist Convention and could not, in the last analysis, have any say-so over The Training School under the general charter of the National Baptist Convention. The members of the Boards of the National Baptist Convention have membership in the National Baptist Convention, and have equal participation in all the functions of the convention. Members of the Woman’s Conventional do not have any such rights in the National Baptist Convention. Why should the National Baptist Convention, then control the Woman’s Convention. It was our purpose from the beginning, and is now, that the National Training School for Women and Girls shall be the capstone of the endeavors of Negro Baptist women in the field of Christian education. It can be done if and when the Woman’s Convention is so constituted that it can legally and officially be responsible to its constituency for its own acts and deeds. At present the Woman’s Auxiliary is legally and directly under a Board of Directors of the National Baptist Convention made up entirely of men. This is not only undemocratic and reactionary, but manifestly unfair in this day when Negro women are carrying almost the entire burden in our churches.

No woman in the world has more genuine respect for worthwhile men than I have. Furthermore, I yield to no man or woman the place of deep devotion which I have in my heart for the National Baptist Convention. I love that Convention with an everlasting love. To me it represents the vision, devotion and courage of the fathers.

That Convention gave the race spiritual giants who preached until heaven came down our suls [souls?] to greet and corwned [crowned?] the mercy seat. Never men spake like them. They wrought well. To me the National Baptist Convention is one of the large agencies to which we are looking to tackle our present religious problems and to which we should look hopefully to glorify all that the past has bequeathed us and the present offers us in the field of Christian service.

My only desire through the years has been to so serve the woman hood of the denomination that we should not trail behind in this service. I have no higher ambition than this and I have no desire so base as to lead me to defeat Negro Baptist womanhood in our original noble purpose.

To this end I have slaved for the Woman’s Convention and the National Training School for Women and Girls all my life. I have made a willing sacrifice that Negro women and girls all over American, in Africa and various other parts of the world might rise and shine. Greater lover hath no woman than this--that she lay down her life for you.

Today I am being paid off by malignment, misrepresentation, accusations not founded in fact, malicious falsehoods and un-Christian procedure. You, for whom I have given the last ouce [ounce?] of devotion are called upon to repudiate the work and the worker. I know - “God hath not promised skies always blue Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through God hath not promised sun without rain, Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

But God hath promised strength for the day, Rest for the laborer, light on the way; Grace for the trial, help from above, Unfailing sympathy, Undying love.

To lookers on it would seem a thankless task but I know the hearts of the large majority of the women of this Convention. You are as true as steel and as grateful as mortal can be.

I leave the whole matter in your hands. My hands are clean--my soul is unsullied. Your work on Lincoln Heights shall live to bless womanhood. I have only two final statements to make, and the second is the prayer of my Master:

  1. God is not dead. 2. Father, forgive them. Sept. 8, 1938