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Nettie L. Napier
*Nettie Langston Napier was born on this date in 1861. She was a Black woman’s activist and administrator.
From Oberlin, Ohio, Nettie DeElla Langston was the daughter of Caroline M. Wall Langston and John Mercer Langston. When she was nine, the family moved to Washington, D.C., where she attended public schools and Howard University. Langston transferred to Oberlin College to complete her education in music, graduating in 1878. That same year she married James Carroll Napier. The couple had one adopted daughter (Carrie Livingston Napier). The Napiers moved within an elite social circle, as Booker T. Washington was a close friend.
Napier was responsible for establishing Day Homes Club, a black woman’s organization designed to help meet the needs of poor communities like that of the Phyllis Wheatley Club. The Day Homes Club was formed in 1907 and was later known as Porter Homestead. She gave constant attention to social duties that commanded her attention and were an efficient and consistent worker in enterprises connected with the Congregational church of her city.
After the family moved to Tennessee, she interested herself in education matters, never failing to aid by advice and substantial support persons seeking enrollment as students of Fisk University and other schools. Napier possessed an accomplished musical education, with a deep, rich contralto voice of great power, and frequently took part in musical entertainments of public and general interest.
During the Red Cross campaign in Nashville, Napier was chosen chairman of a committee of Race women invited by the city's whites to cooperate with them for Red Cross work. Not only was this work carried out during the entire time of the World war, but other phases of war work were creditably done with Napier as the leader. She, and other women, brought the National Association of Colored Women to Nashville in 1897. In 1901, she spoke on their program, her subject being “Women’s Domain.” On the death of Mary B. Talbert, president of the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association, Napier became president of the association. Through her efforts, the Douglass home at Anacostia, Washington, D.C., became the shrine it was intended to be.
Napier’s husband accompanied her at every meeting. On their return from Fort Worth, Texas, in 1937, the car they traveled in was struck, and both Mr. and Mrs. Napier were injured; he received the worst injury, and neither was fatally hurt. Her work for the Douglass Home, for which she will be longest remembered, was exceptional. Nettie Langston Napier, daughter of the late Congressman John M. Langston of Virginia, and wife of Hon. J.C. Napier, former register of the U.S. treasury, died in Nashville's Hubbard hospital on September 30, 1938.
Oct. 8, 1938, page 3, col. 2.
By Rebecca Stiles Taylor