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Welcome to Black Mail, where we bring you Black History—Special Delivery!

The National League For The Protection Of Colored Women was founded in 1906 by Frances Kellor and S.W. Layton. Layton was a black woman suffragist, religious leader, and civil rights activist. Kellor was a white social worker, author, and immigration reformer. The League focused its efforts on aiding women domestic workers in northern U.S. cities. At that time, nearly 90% of jobs for black women were restricted to domestic work. The pay was low, and the hours were long in these roles.

Layton and Kellor joined a multiracial group in New York to explore working conditions and advocate for change. The National League For The Protection of Colored Women had active chapters in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. The group’s work focused on the Southern black women migrating to the north seeking a better quality of life. At this time, many black women were arriving in northern cities with no friends or family, meager financial resources, and no housing.

The League was concerned that these women would face exploitation, including being lured into prostitution. Southern labor agents would often attempt to coerce black women into signing contracts, which would result in an even greater loss of their already low wages. Anxious to find work, women would enter into oppressive contracts, unaware that they would have to give up a large portion of their wages to the labor agent at the end of the month.

The League warned women of these unscrupulous practices and educated them on what to expect upon relocating to the North. Staff were stationed at train stations and ports to meet newly arriving women and assist them with finding safe housing. In addition, the group partnered with other organizations serving black women to provide various support and resources.

The organization became one of the founding organizations of the National Urban League in 1911.

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