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Long quest lands Talbert in Women's Hall

Dr. Lillian Williams had been on a quest for Mary Talbert for 30 years.

The Buffalo educator wanted Talbert installed in the Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls.

The quest started when Williams was conducting research at the Library of Congress and the National Archives for her doctorate in African-American history.

Her quest took her to England and to France, and included writing a biography of Talbert.

"Mary Talbert is one of those persons involved in reform locally, nationally and internationally," said Williams, chairwoman and associate professor of African-American studies at the University at Buffalo.

Talbert, born in 1866, was an advocate for civil and human rights for blacks and women. She opened her home to W.E.B. DuBois and others for the first organizing meeting of the Niagara Movement, which later became the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

She later served as president of the organization and was a member of the national board. Her home was next door to the Michigan Avenue Baptist Church, the key site on Buffalo's Underground Railroad.

So, when Madeline Scott, president of the Afro American Historical Association of the Niagara Frontier, found out Talbert was not in the Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, she was surprised. She was even more surprised when Talbert's nomination was rejected for the 2004 class of inductees.

"I thought 'I don't believe this,' " said Scott. Then she thought to herself, "I have to submit stronger material."

Williams and Scott teamed up to beef up Talbert's application, and the Women's Hall of Fame accepted Talbert. She was inducted last October.

"I was going to be very angry if she didn't," said Scott, who grew up in Olean.

"The application needed a stronger historical focus," Williams said.

So what compelled these two women to keep up the fight to get Talbert in the Women's Hall of Fame?

"I've always been a passionate, keen observer of social issues as they affect African-Americans," Williams said.

"I always thought that if people understand history and the culture of African-Americans, they would be receptive to change."

"This is not work for me. I do it for me," Scott said. "We don't really know who our ancestors are. If we start discussing it, we can talk about why things are the way they are."
e-mail: dswilliams@buffnews.com1

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