Lampkin, Daisy (1883–1965)

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Lampkin, Daisy (1883–1965)

African-American civil rights activist and suffragist. Born Daisy Elizabeth Adams on August 9, 1883, in Washington, D.C.; died on March 10, 1965, in Reading, Pennsylvania; daughter of George S. Adams and Rosa Anne (Proctor) Adams; educated at Reading public schools; married William Lampkin (a restaurateur), on June 18, 1912; no children.

A political activist who for over half a century used her formidable fund-raising skills to advance civil rights for all African-Americans, Daisy Lampkin began her career on the streets of Pittsburgh urging black housewives to organize consumer protest groups. In 1915, she was elected president of the Lucy Stone Woman Suffrage League (which prior to the 19th Amendment promoted suffrage among black women and later, as the Lucy Stone Civic League, financed scholarships for local black students), a post she would hold for over 40 years and one which quickly led to her involvement with the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). In a typical example of her long-term commitment to organizations which shared her goal of equal rights and integration, Lampkin would serve the NACW over many years as national organizer, as vice-president, and as chair of the executive board.

Lampkin became vice-president of the influential black weekly Pittsburgh Courier in 1929, a position she would hold throughout her life in addition to her civic activities. Through her work with the NACW, Lampkin came to know noted educator Mary McLeod Bethune. In 1935, they founded the National Council of Negro Women, which by coordinating the many African-American women's groups around the country combined the local power of those groups into a single entity with national political clout. Lampkin showed keen dedication to both local and national organizations throughout her career, as can be seen in the positions she held with the Republican Party during this period: chair of the Negro Women's Republican League of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, vice-chair of the Negro Voters League of Pennsylvania, and chair of the Colored Voters' Division of the Republican National Committee. In either 1928 or 1933 (sources differ), she had been the first African-American woman elected as an alternate delegate-at-large to the Republican National Convention.

Some of Lampkin's most significant contributions were through her work with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which had been founded in 1909. She became a member of the organization's Pittsburgh branch in the 1920s and soon joined their executive committee. At the time a fairly inactive branch of the national organization, the Pittsburgh chapter gained force and 2,000 new members as a result of a campaign headed by Lampkin in 1929. This success brought her to the attention of the NAACP's national leaders, and in 1930 Lampkin became a regional field secretary. She was promoted to national field secretary in 1935, traveling throughout America to help organize new chapters of the association, to raise memberships and funds, and to speak about the NAACP's vital need for the support of individuals. She was instrumental in fund-raising for the organization's national anti-lynching campaign in those years, and is also considered responsible for getting Thurgood Marshall (later the renowned U.S. Supreme Court justice) to join their Legal Defense Committee. Among the other prominent African-Americans she worked with were Nannie Helen Burroughs , Walter White, Roy Wilkins, and Ella Baker . By the time she resigned her post in 1947, due to poor health and a desire not to travel so much, Lampkin was the NAACP's most successful fund raiser.

A woman of prodigious energy, Lampkin did not slow down much in the subsequent years. Devoted to her local church (for which she also helped to raise funds) and to her husband, William Lampkin, with whom she had shared a successful and mutually supportive marriage since 1912, she nonetheless continued to spend much of her time working for the NAACP. She remained a major organizer of branch campaign drives as the American civil-rights movement gained strength throughout the 1950s and 1960s, instituting a highly productive team method of campaigning that involved local urban churches in membership and fund-raising drives. When she ran the campaign in Pittsburgh in 1962, the chapter membership increased by 4,647. In 1963, she ran a campaign in Camden, New Jersey, increasing membership from 2,705 to 4,078 and raising nearly $11,000. Lampkin was on a similar campaign in Camden in 1964 (the year that saw the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act barring segregation in the public sphere), when she suffered a stroke. She died five months later, on March 10, 1965.

Among the honors Daisy Lampkin received for her unstinting efforts to secure equal rights for African-Americans was an award from the National Council of Negro Women for building the largest membership enrollment in NAACP history (1944), and an honorary membership in the community-oriented Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (1947). She was also given the first Eleanor Roosevelt -Mary McLeod Bethune World Citizenship Award from the NCNW in December 1964, but was too ill to attend the ceremony. Lena Horne accepted for her. In 1983, Lampkin became the first black woman in Pennsylvania whose house was designated a historical landmark. Important as they are, these honors pale in comparison to the signal achievements being hard-fought for and finally won in the last decades of her life by the NAACP and the rest of the civil-rights movement, achievements to which she contributed and devoted her life. As she had once said in a speech to a branch of the NAACP, "Living in an integrated society is [a] right; it is not a privilege extended … by others."


Sicherman, Barbara, and Carol Hurd Green. Notable American Women: The Modern Period. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1980.

Smith, Jessie Carney, ed. Notable Black American Women. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1992.

Karina L. Kerr , M.A., Ypsilanti, Michigan