Lillian May Parker Thomas Fox was born on November 1854 in Chicago, Illinois but grew up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Her parents were Jane Janette (Johnson), a teacher, and Reverend Byrd Parker. After Rev. Parker died her mother married Robert E. Thomas, a barber in Oshkosh. Thomas learned to read and write at an early age, and attended public schools in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. After moving with her mother to Indianapolis, Indiana, in the 1880s, she studied at the Indiana-Boston School of Elocution and the Indianapolis Institute for Young Ladies. Her mother and younger brother died of tuberculosis two days apart in January 1894. Little is known about her older brother.

Lillian earned income as a seamstress while working as a freelance writer for black newspapers. In 1891 she passed the civil service entrance examination for a clerkship but pursued a career as a journalist, public speaker, and social activist in Indianapolis. In September 1891 the Indianapolis Freeman hired her as an assistant corresponding editor. She continued writing for the newspaper until 1893 when she married James E. Fox on May 25. The couple had no children. At the Freeman, where she was the only woman on the editorial staff, her writings favored Booker T. Washington’s approach to black economic progress. On May 26, 1894, Lillian sailed for the Congo to do missionary work. Four years later James died so she resumed her career as a journalist and also became an active club woman in the Indianapolis’s black community.

In 1900, after addressing the Afro-American Press Association’s annual meeting in Indianapolis on the topic of women in journalism, the Indianapolis News hired her as a correspondent. Lillian became the first African American to write a regular news column for a white newspaper in Indiana. For fifteen years she wrote a weekly column called “News of the Colored Folk,” about the activities of the local black community which ran from 1900 to 1915, but did not write under a byline. Lillian also used her position as a journalist to support and encourage efforts to advance the initiatives of several black community organizations.

Lillian became a well-known speaker and social activist. She and Beulah Wright Porter founded the Woman’s Improvement Club of Indianapolis and Lillian founded the Indiana State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, a consortium of fourteen black women’s clubs in the state. And became involved in several national organizations as well as a member of the Bethel AME Church’s literary group, the Bethel Christian Endeavor Society, the Alpha Home Association, and a superintendent at the Sisters of Charity Hospital in Indianapolis. She was also a state representative to the National Afro-American Council‘s executive committee, a member of the Indianapolis Anti-Lynching League, and active in the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, among other groups.

Due to failing eyesight and general ill health Lillian retired from the News in 1915. She suffered a stroke in August 1917 and died of a heart attack at a friend’s home in Indianapolis.

References

  • “6 selected for Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame”The Washington Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 2015-07-20.
  • Bodenhamer, David J., and Robert G. Barrows, eds. (1994). The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-31222-1{{cite book}}|author= has a generic name (help)
  • Ferguson, Earline Rae, “Lillian Thomas Fox: Indianapolis Journalist and Community Leader” in Gibbs, Wilma L., ed. (2007). Indiana’s African-American Heritage: Essays from Black History News and Notes (2nd ed.). Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press. pp. 139–50. ISBN 978-0-87195-099-4.
  • Ferguson, Earline Rae (May 1987). “Lillian Thomas Fox: Indianapolis Journalist and Community Leader”. Black History News and Notes. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. 28: 4–6.
  • Ferguson, Earline Rae (September 1988). “The Woman’s Improvement Club of Indianapolis: Black Women Pioneers in Tuberculosis Work, 1903–1938”. Indiana Magazine of History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 84 (3): 237–61. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
  • Gugin, Linda C., and James E. St. Clair, eds. (2015). Indiana’s 200: The People Who Shaped the Hoosier State. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press. pp. 125–27. ISBN 978-0-87195-387-2. {{cite book}}: |author= has a generic name (help)
  • Hine, Darlene Clark (1981). When the Truth is Told: A History of Black Women’s Culture and Community in Indiana, 1875–1950. Indianapolis, Indiana: National Council of Negro Women. OCLC 7808788.
  • Slaymaker, Julie. “Lillian Thomas Fox”. Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2015-07-10. Retrieved 2015-07-20.
  • Streeter, Carrie. “Breathing Power and Poise: Black Women’s Movements for Self-Expression and Health, 1880s-1900s,” Australasian Journal of American Studies 39 (1): 5-46.

Accessed Wikipedia.org 25 May 2022.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

735 – After dictating his final sentence translating the Gospel of John into Anglo-Saxon; Venerable Bede sat on the floor of his small room and began singing, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,” and, finishing the hymn, passed quietly into the presence of the Lord.

1521 – A rump session of the Diet of Worms approves an edict declaring Luther a criminal who has committed high treason, and calls for his capture and death.

1910 Pope Pius X issues his “Borromeo” encyclical (Editae saepe) in which he blames modern revolutions on “the would-be reformers of the sixteenth century” and characterizes them as enemies of the cross.

1927Francis Edward Clark, founder of the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor died in Newton, Massachusetts.

1952 –  Walter Thomas Conner, a Southern Baptist preacher, and educator active in Texas died in Ft. Worth. He sought to make theological education result in practical expressions of faith, by writing and teaching for four decades at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Accessed ChristianHistoryInstitute.org and Rhemalogy.com 25 May 2022.

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