About a year ago, I submitted an application to the Pomeroy Foundation on behalf of the Annie E. Jones Marker Committee for a marker honoring longtime Elizabeth City resident Annie E. Jones as part of the National Votes for Women Trail. A creation of the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites, the trail honors women’s suffrage efforts leading to the passage of the 19th Amendment.

I am delighted to report that the Pomeroy Foundation board approved the Jones marker earlier this fall.

As an early 20th century African American woman, Annie E. Jones’s suffrage activity was shaped by her race and her gender. In 1900, North Carolina legislators began disfranchising Black male voters. They did this in spite of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing the vote to all male citizens.

As a group, North Carolina women did not have the right to vote until 1920 when the 19th Amendment was passed. Therefore, in order to vote, Jones and other Black women had to advocate for women’s suffrage and also overcome racist election laws.

They worked this by creating a network of local clubs that came together as the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. Through the NACWC, they advocated for women’s suffrage and many other causes.

There were many Black women’s clubs in Elizabeth City. Jones was a member of the Matrons Social and Literary Club. In 1917, as a Matron, Jones hosted a discussion about Frederick Douglass, a noted proponent of women’s suffrage, in her home on Speed Street. That same year, the club hosted Mary Talbert, president of the NACWC. During her visit, Talbert spoke at Cornerstone Baptist Church on South Martin Street.

After passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, Jones immediately began organizing nonpartisan voter education classes in Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County. In describing their diligence and preparedness, Jones said, “We colored women are going to know the subject of government from the township unit up to the national Congress and most of us already can show you how to read and interpret the Constitution of the United States.”

Unfortunately, as a result voter intimidation and other disfranchising tactics, only three Black women successfully registered to vote in Elizabeth City that year. In spite of this outcome, Jones’ efforts to support and prepare Black women to be voters placed her at the center of the African American struggle for voting rights in North Carolina.

Throughout her life and career Jones touched every corner of Elizabeth City. She was a 1901 graduate of Elizabeth City State Colored Normal School (today ECSU). She taught at and was principal of the Bank Street School, which was later named after her.

A longtime member of Cornerstone Baptist Church, she lived on Speed Street until her death in 1950 and is buried in Old Oak Grove Cemetery. Jones is featured on a mural along with other prominent northeastern North Carolina women in front of Museum of the Albemarle.

The Pomeroy Foundation is fully funding the marker’s creation. The marker will be placed on the corner of Speed Street and Road Street in spring 2022. The Annie E. Jones marker committee hopes to make the marker’s unveiling a communitywide celebration. Individuals and organizations interested in participating should contact Dr. Melissa N. Stuckey at mnstuckey@ecsu.edu.

Melissa Stuckey is an assistant professor of history at Elizabeth City State University and member of the board of the Friends of the Museum of the Albemarle.