• Meet the Honorees

City Honors Two Advocates for Racial and Gender Equity

City Honors Two Advocates for Racial and Gender Equity

Formal unveiling of the two streets renamed to honor Harriet A. Jacobs and Gertrude Wright Morgan

On June 27, 2019, a formal unveiling of the two streets renamed recently to honor two African American Cantabrigdian women active in human rights work, Harriet Jacobs and Gertrude Wright Morgan, took place at Cambridge Crossing. The street renaming was a collaborative effort between the real estate developer, Divco West, and the Cambridge Historical Commission and Department of Public Works, who selected the honorees.

Both women were activists for racial and women’s equity.

  • Harriet A. Jacobs – Abolitionist, author, and women’s rights advocate and educator, was born into slavery in 1813, in Edenton, North Carolina. In 1842 she fled to New York, where she gained her freedom in 1852. She published her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, in 1861. This significant work was ranked with Fredrick Douglass's My Bondage, My Freedom as a major contribution in the genre of slave narratives. She used her fame to advantage to do relief work for African American soldiers during the Civil War and helped to create and maintain schools for southern blacks. She purchased the house at 17 Story Street about 1868 and lived there until her death in 1897. She is buried in Mt. Auburn Cemetery.
  • Gertrude Wright Morgan – Born in Springfield, Ill in 1861. She was the first black female student to attend the high school in Springfield, which integrated its schools in 1874. She graduated high school third in her class and became a teacher. She married Clement G. Morgan in 1896 and moved to Cambridge soon thereafter. Both Gertrude and Clement were involved in the Niagara Movement and the establishment of the NAACP. They hosted prominent citizens and civil rights leaders in their home at 265 Prospect Street. Gertrude was active in the suffrage movement, representing her ward on a committee for better city government. She was president of the Women’s Era Club and member of the board of the Harriet Tubman House. She was appointed by Gov. Cox to represent Massachusetts at the dedication of the Frederick Douglass house museum in 1922.

“Gertrude Wright was the first person to integrate her high school in Springfield, IL and graduated third in her class. She married Clement Morgan, a Harvard graduate active in local politics and together, they founded the Niagara Movement,” said Dr. Jim Spencer, Cambridge resident and great great nephew of Ms. Wright Morgan, at the dedication ceremony. “I’m going to repeat that: together they founded the Niagara Movement; because women didn’t get a lot of credit for anything back then, including their work on the civil rights movement.”

City Councilor and two-time Cambridge Mayor, E. Denise Simmons, echoed the importance of sharing and honoring our history through actions such as the street renaming to honor these two African-American Women who contributed so much to Cambridge and to our society. “In the words of Dr. Spencer, we are putting women back in their place; taking them out of the shadows and putting them in the middle of the page” stated Simmons. “Some years back, I participated in, and others of you may remember this project called ‘Cambridge History: Lost and Found,’ because so much of our history has been lost.”

Said Simmons “I want to encourage each of you sitting here to think about writing your story to capture our history for the children of Cambridge.”

The event was attended by numerous descendants of Ms. Wright Morgan, who thanked the city for honoring her legacy.