Carrie Williams Clifford

(1862 - 1934)

Writer and activist Carrie Williams Clifford was born in 1862 in Chillicothe, Ohio. She taught in Parkersburg, West Virginia, for several years before returning to Ohio and marrying William H. Clifford, an Ohio state legislator. While living in Cleveland, she served as assistant recording secretary for the National Association of Colored Women and co-founded the Ohio State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. She befriended W. E. B. DuBois, who encouraged her to recruit other Black women for the Niagara Movement, an early iteration of the NAACP. In 1908, Clifford and her husband and two children, Maurice and Joshua, moved to Washington, D.C. There, she hosted Sunday night gatherings for fellow Black activists and Harlem Renaissance figures. Once the NAACP was founded, Clifford served in multiple leadership roles for the organization, focusing on issues including lynching and children’s rights.

Clifford’s poetry, seen in Race Rhymes (1911) and The Widening Light (1922), engages deeply with the social concerns of her time, including racism and women’s rights. Her political poetry and essays were published in many Black publications, and she worked for a time as editor of the Cleveland Journal. She died in 1934.