SYLVANIE WILLIAMS 2018-09-21T09:46:33-05:00

Project Description

THE ICON: Sylvanie Williams

THE LEGACY: As a black woman in Reconstruction New Orleans, Sylvanie Williams was accustomed to being told all the things she wasn’t allowed to do. So, she focused her considerable energy on those things she could do to help build a better New Orleans. That included molding young minds as a public school educator for 50 years, including 20 years as principal of Thomy Lafon School. Outside the classroom, she forged a path as a civic leader, founding and guiding the Phyllis Wheatley Club — the preeminent civic club for black women at the time — and emerging as a vocal advocate for women’s suffrage. Soon enough, she had taught New Orleans a vital lesson about undervaluing and overlooking black women, as evidenced by local journalist Dorothy Dix, who in 1903 declared that “no woman in New Orleans was more respected or had more influence than Mrs. Williams.”

THE ARTIST: Maddie Stratton

THE INSPIRATION: “Flowers, in their beauty and sweetness, may represent the womanhood of the world. Some flowers are fragile and delicate, some strong and hardy. Some are carefully guarded and cherished, others are roughly treated and trodden underfoot. These last are the colored women. The colored woman has a crown of thorns continually pressed upon her brow. Yet she is advancing, and sometimes you find her further on than you would have expected.” — Sylvanie Williams, addressing Susan B. Anthony in New Orleans in April 1903, as reported by The Woman’s Journal