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Sun, 11.16.1862

Ida Gibbs Hunt, Global Racial and Gender Activist born

Ida Gibbs Hunt

*Ida Gibbs Hunt was born on this date in 1862.  She was a Black administrator and international racial and gender equality activist.

Ida Alexander Gibbs was born in Victoria, British Columbia. Ida's father, Judge Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, was one of the wealthiest African Americans in the United States in the late nineteenth century. Before he acquired wealth, he and his wife, Maria Ann Alexander Gibbs, lived in Pennsylvania, California, and finally on Vancouver Island. In 1872, the Gibbs family returned to the United States as an affluent family. The third child of five siblings, she was the eldest daughter. One of her sisters was Harriet Gibbs Marshall.   

At Oberlin College, she completed a classical and scientific, academic course in the Department of Philosophy and the Arts. She was a part of the first class of black women to graduate from the school in 1884, alongside Mary Church Terrell and Anna Julia Cooper. They counted as among the first generation of African American women to graduate from a university. Gibbs was also elected president of the Oberlin Literacy Society. In 1892, she received a Master of Arts degree.

Gibbs taught Latin and mathematics before her marriage. As a teacher, Gibbs taught English at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College, at Florida A&M University, Armstrong Manual Training High School in Washington, D.C., and M Street High School in Washington, D.C. In the 1920s, M Street High School later renamed Dunbar High School, had four African-American women who had doctorates, Ida Gibbs being one of them, which brought a lot of attention to the school. On April 12, 1904, Gibbs married the diplomat William Henry Hunt at #14 N Street, N.W., in Washington, D.C. She had to leave her teaching job upon marriage because until 1920, married women in the public school system in Washington, D.C., were forced to stop working.

After she married, she left her career as an educator to join her husband in various consular postings abroad. After her marriage, Gibbs Hunt accompanied her husband on his diplomatic assignments. Through her travels, she developed an international perspective on racial justice. Her time abroad exposed her to parallels between the African American struggle in the United States and the struggles faced by African peoples in colonized territories. She Hunt promoted black education, civil rights, woman's suffrage, and Pan-Africanism.

Between 1905 and 1907, Gibbs Hunt returned to the United States and endorsed Washington, D.C.'s new Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). She organized the first Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) for black women and became a board member of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA. In 1906, while attending the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) conference in Detroit, Michigan, Gibbs Hunt described how African women responded to Belgian colonists in the Congo. During World War I, Gibbs Hunt was active in the French Red Cross, aiding Belgian refugees and visiting wounded Allied soldiers.

After the war, she began to write for The Crisis under the pen name Iola Gibson. The Paris Peace Conference marked the beginning of her political leadership. Internationally, she helped support W.E.B. DuBois organize many Pan-African Congresses. Gibbs encouraged him to come to France, where she lived, and introduced Du Bois to black French legislator Blaise Diagne, who pushed the French government to approve the Pan-African Congress of 1919. DuBois relied on Gibbs Hunt for her French fluency, organizational work, and political connections. She was the primary translator at the 1919 Paris Pan-African Congress.

Her goal was to unite Africans across the diaspora around a common purpose. She also advocated for world disarmament and the appointment of black representatives at the 1923 London Third Pan-African Congress in a paper entitled "The Colored Races and the League of Nations." She co-chaired the Conference's Executive Committee. Nationally, she was involved in the Niagara Movement and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Other organizations Gibbs Hunt was involved in included the Club Franco-Étranger, the Book Lover's Club, the Bethel Literary Society, the Washington Welfare Association, and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

Gibbs Hunt and others advocate for racial and gender equality by advocating for a global women's coalition. She published articles in the Journal of Negro History and the Negro History Bulletin, including "The Price of Peace" (1938), "Civilization and the Darker Races" (n.d.), and the "Recollection of Frederick Douglas" (1953). Ida Gibbs Hunt died in Washington, D.C., on December 19, 1957. Though Du Bois is recognized as the leader of the Pan-African movement, Gibbs Hunt was the major organizer and an influential member of the Executive Committee in subsequent years.

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Reference:

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