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Ora Brown Stokes and the Richmond Neighborhood Association

Ora Brown Stokes and the Richmond Neighborhood Association

By Angela Lehman


Ora Brown Stokes and a member of the Girls Protective League
Image: Social Welfare History Image Portal
VCU Libraries Special Collections and Archives

In the early twentieth century, the neighborhood of Jackson Ward in Richmond, Virginia, was a center of African American economic, civic, and cultural life. As Jim Crow restrictions intensified after Virginia revised its constitution in 1902 and urban poverty increased among African Americans, middle-class residents of Jackson Ward sought to uplift their racial brethren in a variety of ways. John Mitchell Jr. used his position as editor of the Richmond Planet to advocate for racial justice, and lawyer Giles B. Jackson sought to improve labor conditions. Maggie L. Walker founded the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank to improve economic resilience among Richmond’s African Americans. She was also interested in young people and in the emerging field of juvenile justice, as evidenced by her ardent support of the Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls (Branch, 2020).

One generation younger than Walker, Ora Brown Stokes (1882-1957) moved to Jackson Ward in 1902 when she married William Herbert Stokes, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, one of the neighborhood’s prominent churches. Her father was a well-educated minister who had begun teaching immediately after the Civil War. Born in Chester, Virginia, and raised in Fredericksburg, Ora had excelled at school, graduating at age 16 from the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (forerunner of Virginia State University). She became deeply involved in Richmond’s African American community as a social worker, probation officer in the juvenile justice system, and fraternal organization leader, among many other roles throughout her life. Her position as a pastor’s wife enabled her to promote causes important to her in Richmond, while her involvement in regional and state Baptist organizations extended her leadership beyond the city. Eventually, she traveled across the country to obtain more education, deliver speeches, and represent Richmond and Virginia at religious and civic conferences (Bonis, 2019; Caldwell, 1921).

Like other middle-class, educated African American “reform women” of the Progressive Era, Stokes was committed to uplifting her race. She founded and was the driving force behind the Richmond Neighborhood Association (RNA), an organization which has received little attention despite its centrality to social welfare work among Richmond’s African Americans between 1912 and 1924, particularly among children and young women. Marcia Chatelain notes in South Side Girls: Growing Up in the Great Migration, “Black clubwomen’s advocacy for girls revealed their belief that black girlhood was…critically important to black survival and progress.” (Chatelain, 2015, p. 4) Ora Brown Stokes shared this belief. Unlike some of her peers, such as fellow Virginian Nannie Helen Burroughs and her National Training School for Women and Girls in Washington, D.C., Stokes welcomed financial and organizational support from white people for the RNA and its projects that aided women and children. For Stokes, Black progress did not exclude partnership with whites. However, she made sure that the organizations she started retained Black leadership.

Richmond Neighborhood Association

Richmond sits along the James River and is threaded through with streams. Flooding has often wreaked havoc on low-lying portions of the city, populated in the early twentieth century predominantly by poor, Black families. A Shockoe Creek flood in 1911 left numerous Black Richmonders homeless. Ora Brown Stokes was asked to assist in relief efforts, either by the Associated Charities, a Richmond charity organization society, or the Richmond Chief of Police. Upon finishing this work, Stokes formed a group that could perform similar work after other emergencies. Named the Richmond Neighborhood Association (RNA) in 1912, Stokes was its president throughout the organization’s existence (“National Protective League,” 1917; “Origin,” 1920). 

The RNA soon grew into a widely supported organization that undertook a range of endeavors. One of its first major projects was to participate in a city-wide “Clean-Up Campaign” in May of 1913. This project was spearheaded by the Society for the Betterment of Housing and Living Conditions in Richmond, a social welfare organization formed by whites to document and ameliorate physically and morally unhealthy living conditions for poor people. Although the Society studied conditions in both white and Black districts, the city might have shortchanged Black neighborhoods during the clean-up weeks had it not been for the efforts of the RNA and Ebenezer Baptist (Weber, 1913).

In an article announcing a citizens’ meeting about the upcoming campaign, a Richmond newspaper noted, “the colored population of the city begs not to be overlooked.” The Rev. William Stokes and a committee had met earlier with Mayor George Ainslie and Gustavus Weber, leader of the Society, to insist that garbage collected from other places in the city not be dumped in Black neighborhoods, as was the practice. (This was still true in 1917, when seven dumps and trash-burning sites were located in Black neighborhoods.) Ainslie conceded that only non-combustible trash would be dumped there. In advance of the official clean-up week, the RNA held two meetings, attended by more than 1,000 people from Richmond and nearby Manchester, to organize African American participation. The RNA worked with the Society, a white organization, and the Baptist Sunday-School Union, a Black group, to arrange the meetings.  After a successful clean-up, the RNA sought to extend the efforts and get children involved by offering prizes for the best-kept back yards that summer (Caffee, Jan. 1917; Caffee, Feb. 1917, correction; “Clean-up Work,” 1913, “Important Don’ts,” 1913; “Good Work,” 1913; “Negroes Planning,” 1913).

Over the course of its existence, the RNA initiated general education and uplift efforts, such as raising funds for flood victims in Richmond and sponsoring a community discussion about starting a free lending library. It held a special ice cream event annually for the residents of the Boys’ Reform School at Broad Neck and collected food and gifts for them at Christmas.1 Its monthly meetings often included lectures responding to current news and featured both Black and white speakers. For example, a 1913 report by the Richmond health department showing a higher death rate among African Americans prompted the RNA to hold a forum featuring talks by Dr. Roy Flannagan of the state Board of Health and by Robert Russa Moton, then a dean at Hampton Institute, among others. An “impending marriage and divorce bill” in 1923, which would affect “the welfare of the colored people in 19 states,” caused the RNA to mount a program to educate its members about the bill (“Benefit Flood Sufferers,” 1915; “Colored News Notes,” Jan. 20, 1920; “Colored People,” 1915; “How to Decrease,” 1913; “Symposium,” 1923).

In addition to its own service and educational work, the Richmond Neighborhood Association also became an umbrella organization that coordinated the management and fundraising for three distinct projects that addressed the social welfare of African American families and young women in Richmond. Ora Brown Stokes was instrumental in starting and running all three. Under her leadership, the groups attracted the praise and support of prominent white citizens and officials in Richmond. The RNA counted among its dues-paying members “both white and colored Richmond philanthropists and social workers” (“Close Home,” 1919). White support may have had its basis in a sense of noblesse oblige rekindled by Lost Cause rhetoric and in a desire to codify segregation through “separate but equal” organizations, as argued by Clayton Brooks (2017), but separateness potentially opened up a space for Black leaders in social welfare. Stokes was among the people who strode confidently into this space. Over the years, RNA leadership was all Black and predominantly female, with Stokes serving as president from 1912 to 1924, when the organization seems to have disbanded.

Group photograph of Ora Brown Stokes and colleagues at the National Protective League for Negro Girls
The Crisis, January 1917
The error in Stokes’ last name was corrected in the following issue.

National Protective League for Negro Girls

As suggested by the RNA’s efforts to involve children in the 1913 city clean-up, Ora Brown Stokes was interested in nurturing young Black people’s sense of agency. One of her efforts that fell under the umbrella of the RNA grew from her unwillingness to accept white-imposed restrictions on a service organization for Black girls.

The national organization Camp Fire Girls was founded in New England in 1910 and by 1913 was enormously popular among white girls in Virginia. Stokes started a branch for African American girls which was initially not accepted by the national office. Sometime in late 1914 or early 1915, the Camp Fire Board agreed to accept their membership but limited the chapter to 20 girls. Stokes conceded but bided her time until she could solicit the help of a few other women to form the National Protective League for Negro Girls (NPLNG) in early 1916 (“Judge Ricks,” 1916; “National Protective League,” 1917).

Richmond membership quickly grew into the hundreds, organized into clubs led by “chaperones”—often Black public school teachers—who conducted weekly meetings (“Judge Ricks,” 1916). The goal of NPLNG was “to bind together for world-wide service to humanity the women and girls of the Negro race” by uniting girls and building their faith in themselves; encouraging moral education, clean conversation, and wholesome recreation; developing teamwork and leadership skills; and cooperating with “helpful agencies” (“National Protective League,” 1917).

One of those agencies was the newly formed Richmond Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. Richmond Juvenile Court Judge James Hoge Ricks, a Friend (Quaker) and progressive reformer, supported the work of the NPLNG through public appearances, such as a speech in which he complimented Stokes and the League “for the help he receives from them” (“Judge Ricks,” 1916). The specifics of this help are not clear, but Stokes had begun her volunteer work with Black women and girls in the correctional system by this time, which brought her into contact with white judicial and city officials. It is evident that the RNA and the League were well-regarded by prominent white leaders of the city, including judges and lawyers (“League for Negro Girls,” 1916).

Documentation of NPLNG activities at the club and chapter levels is scant. Likely the girls were engaging in service work and fundraising for charities in their own neighborhoods (“Open Colored,” 1917). We get a sense of another one of the organization’s concerns from the title of a quarterly conference which mothers of members were encouraged to attend: “How Shall I Tell the Story of Life to My Girl?” ( “Negro Girls’,” 1917)

Stokes, who around this time was studying sociology at the University of Chicago, increasingly traveled to conferences and speaking engagements across Virginia and the nation on topics related to social work and community organizing.2 She must have encouraged friends around the country to start their own NPLNG chapters. An annual NPLNG convention in Richmond in November 1917 attracted delegates from Illinois, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and West Virginia, and from other localities in Virginia (“Girls’ Conference,” 1917; “Will Discuss,” 1917).

When the U.S. entered World War I, Stokes became involved in various capacities in the war effort, including as chair of the Colored Women’s Section of the Council of National Defense of Virginia. She also seems to have redirected NPLNG activities: the Richmond chapter served as “Regimental Sisters” for nearby Camp Lee (now Fort Gregg-Adams). In 1918, Richmond girls organized a “needle and record shower” for soldiers there and raised $99.94 in funds (Finkelstein, 2021; “Girls Protective League!” 1918).

The National Protective League for Negro Girls fades from newspaper accounts after this report, although it continued at least into 1919. While it was active, the organization received accolades from Judge Ricks, Virginia’s Negro Organization Society, and the NAACP publication The Crisis. It introduced hundreds of African American girls in Richmond, and apparently the nation, to social welfare work.

Day Nursery

Ora Brown Stokes excelled at identifying unmet needs and organizing people to address them together. Like many female reformers across the country, she recognized that the lack of childcare forced many working-class mothers to choose between a job and safe accommodations for their children. In Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood, a day nursery that was part of the Fulton Settlement house had opened in late 1915 under the direction of Dr. Anna Cooper. The following year, the RNA formed a board to operate a similar facility in Jackson Ward, which opened in early 1917 (“Donations for Day Nursery,” 1916) .

“All employers who have colored help who live in Jackson Ward are requested to urge them to send their children to this nursery instead of leaving them alone at home,” the Evening Journal reported (“To Aid,” 1917). The daycare center, “in the most congested part of old Jackson Ward,” cost ten cents a day per child when it opened, and the RNA committed to helping families who couldn’t pay the full amount. The program was a “day” care in the sense that children lived with their parents, and a “nursery” in the sense that it cared for young children; infants were not accepted for at least its first four years. In addition to day care, it provided nighttime care for children whose parents worked late hours in factories or as domestic servants (“Open Colored,” 1917). The matron in charge helped children get to school and made sure sick children got attention, either at local dispensaries or through the Instructive Visiting Nurses Association (“Colored Day Nursery,” 1917).

The Day Nursery shared a building with the Friends’ Asylum for Colored Orphans, an organization started by Lucy Goode Brooks, a Black woman, and the Richmond Friends Meeting (Quakers) after the Civil War.3  The Friends included Black churches on the orphanage’s board and in its operation, determining “from its inception to include and eventually cede control to black leadership” (Butler, 2018, pp. 55-56). Ebenezer Baptist Church was one of the original six Black churches to be involved. In 1889, Black churches took complete control of the board, and the city of Richmond transferred the asylum’s deed to them. Meanwhile, the Friends continued to use “their own influence as prominent white citizens to sustain and promote the asylum” (Butler, 2018, p.22).

When the Nursery opened, the Evening Journal assured its white readers that “an advisory board of white persons who are interested in constructive welfare work among colored people will cooperate with the management in all of the affairs of the day nursery. The finance committee is composed of white and colored citizens who enjoy the confidence of the public” (“To Aid,” 1917). In 1923, the African American newspaper The Richmond Planet described the institution as owned and run by Blacks, signaling that the RNA had not allowed white advisors or financiers to dominate its administration. The Friends’ Asylum allowed the daycare free use of space in its building on the aptly named Charity Street, and the RNA supplied office equipment, food, clothing, heating fuel, and the salary of a full-time employee for the childcare center. It also exerted a great deal of effort into raising funds and in-kind donations for the nursery (“Block Day,” 1923).

One key fundraising mechanism was the “tag sale,” which involved an army of volunteers—likely all middle-class African American women—stationed throughout the city once or twice every year. They would request donations and give a “tag” that the donor would pin on his or her clothing to show support for the daycare. In 1919, RNA volunteers raised $1,140.50, “the largest sum of money ever raised in this city by a local organization on a tag day” (Colored News Notes,” Nov. 17, 1919). Other support over the years included food and fuel donated by the Elks Club, the Ushers’ Union, and the Quakers. African American women formed a “canning club” to preserve food and donate every fifth can to the nursery and orphanage (“‘Bundle Day’ is Observed,” 1917; “Now is the Time!” 1923). In 1920, the RNA planned an entertainment fundraiser called “Million-Dollar Wedding” that attracted more than three thousand people, including white supporters, and held a fashion show fundraiser in 1921 (“Colored Entertainers,” 1920; “Colored News Notes,” May 14, 1920; “Fashion Show,” 1921).

At first, the Day Nursery only took in school-age children, but after a $2,000 expansion in 1921, Stokes planned to open it to children under age 2 if she could find trained help. Pleading for support from the public, Stokes called the lack of affordable, around-the-clock childcare for African American infants acute: “Now that factory work is uncertain, many women are going into domestic service. This institution has been of great assistance to the child welfare work of the juvenile court” (“Today is ‘Heart Day,’” 1921).4

The following years continued to be a challenge for both the daycare center and the orphanage. Though once managed as distinct entities, they seem to have merged by 1922, with the board of the Friends’ Asylum running both operations while the RNA assisted with fundraising under the leadership of Stokes (“Hold Tag Day,” 1922). In December 1923, a front page article in The Richmond Planet reported that the facility needed kitchen, bathroom, and bedding supplies. “The Board of Health is demanding that we furnish these supplies, the permit to maintain this Home depends upon this building being gotten immediately in a sanitary condition… It will be a disgrace upon the colored people of Richmond if this Home passes from the management of colored men into the management of white men because of the lack of support on the part of the colored people” (“Now is the Time!” 1923).

Many readers of this call for support might have remembered that in 1919, the state Board of Corrections and Charities had closed down a Black-run nursery after an investigation into unsatisfactory conditions and operating procedures. Twenty children had in fact been moved to the RNA day nursery and Friends’ Asylum. Clayton Brooks asserts that the closure was not racially motivated, but nevertheless, the stakes must have felt high, particularly because Ora Stokes had been asked to assist in the inquiry (2017, pp. 96-97; “Close Home,” 1919).

In calling for financial and in-kind donations from the Black community, Stokes emphasized the value of Black-run institutions, both for the welfare of Black children and for the race as a whole. This call to action may also reflect what Clayton Brooks identifies as “increasingly pessimistic” Black attitudes in the 1920s: “As Black leaders began to focus more on racial rather than class alliances, their patience with paternalism and paternalistic interracial cooperation waned” (2017, pp. 9-10).

It is not clear what happened with regard to the Board of Health demands in 1923, or how long the facility functioned as a daycare in addition to an orphanage. In 1931, it became a foster care agency. Over the years, its mission has adjusted to meet community needs, and it currently provides childcare, youth development programs, and family support in Jackson Ward and Church Hill under the name FRIENDS Association for Children.

While it operated, the Richmond Neighborhood Association’s Day Nursery provided a vital social service by caring for young Black children who might otherwise have been left at home alone. It also undoubtedly allowed Black women to have more employment opportunities to support their families. For a time, it also complemented Stokes’ own involvement in the Council of National Defense by supporting women’s entry into the workforce during World War I. Under her leadership, the nursery received widespread support from the African American community as well as white leaders. Much of the enthusiasm of the latter, however, might be understood in the context of a paternalistic system that viewed Black people as subservient, and in need of white benevolence and guidance.

During the war, Black and white leaders saw expanded child care for all working-class women as a means of reducing labor shortages, but the language in the white press around fundraising to support day nurseries reveals assumptions about Black labor value, as well as a willingness to disrupt Black family life. One article noted Stokes’s work with the RNA nursery, saying her daycare “makes it possible for many housekeepers to have colored help, and also for factories demanding workers at good wages.” Expanding the RNA’s day nursery would not only increase the availability of inexpensive labor, but “in releasing the mothers so that the family may become self-supporting, [it] would in many cases relieve the community of a burden.” With more funding, the nursery could care for babies “day and night, and their mothers could live where they were employed…. Days and hours off could be spent with the babies” (“Day Nursery Problem,” 1917). 

Well-meaning or not, white involvement in Black institutions presented a risk that Black people would be forced to cede authority to leaders who might not have understood what their best interests were, let alone had them in heart. The RNA day nursery allowed Richmond’s Black community a chance to advance social welfare under their own control.

Girls Home, 502 W. Clay St., Richmond, Va., circa 1919. Detail from brochure.
Brochure for the Girls Home at 502 W. Clay St., Richmond, Va.
Image: Social Welfare History Image Portal
VCU Libraries Special Collections and Archives

Girls’ Home

In early 1919, the RNA embarked on another project, a home for young Black women “who come alone to the city, and a gathering place for those already here” looking for work (“Social Service Worthy,” 1919). This rural-to-urban shift within the South was a subset of the Great Migration, when the “unraveling” of Southern agriculture and the growth of urban industry, among other factors, led many Black families and individuals to seek employment in cities. Social reformers during this period “asserted that black girls were children in need of protection from the deleterious elements of urbanization. Yet they believed that girls, through their self-presentation and successes, could also carry the weighty responsibilities of race progress” (Chatelain, 2015, p. 4).

One way of fostering such success was to open lodging facilities that also provided an educational or training element. Perhaps the most well-known of these are homes that were operated by Phyllis Wheatley Clubs in cities across the country (Carlton-LaNey & Hodges, 2004). It is possible that Stokes was inspired to start the Richmond home during her time in school in Chicago, where three Wheatley homes served Black women and girls moving to Chicago starting in 1908.

In Richmond, a house at 502 W. Clay Street served as the Girls’ Home and the headquarters of the RNA.5 In its first year, 120 young women passed through the home, paying $1 a week plus 25 cents for kitchen and laundry privileges. The following year, they could also take “opportunity classes” in “millinery, flower-making, novelty and bead making,” although the RNA recognized that many lodgers needed basic instruction in “domestic sciences,” including the “use of gas and other details not familiar to country-bred girls.” Students from nearby Virginia Union University held Bible classes and gave occasional musical performances and literary presentations for the residents (“Colored News Notes,” Mar. 3, 1920; “Origin,” 1920).

Although Ora Brown Stokes may have been encouraged by Wheatley homes in Chicago, she knew from her own experience in Richmond that a home for working Black girls would address an unmet need. At first as an unofficial probation officer, and later officially appointed so, she worked with Black women and girls encountering the criminal justice system, where they were labeled “delinquent.” She understood that social and educational support for the girls could prevent many of these encounters (Caldwell, 1921; Price, 1927).

The mission of the home appealed to Black and white Richmonders alike. A June 1920 tag sale for the home raised over a thousand dollars, and the RNA expressed its gratitude “to all of the friends who contributed and especially to the white friends who did not hesitate to wear the tags that day as evidence of their cooperation” (“$1,155.25,” 1920). By 1923, the house on Clay Street was “almost paid out.” A news item in a white paper noted, “A matron and house secretary are in charge at all times, and the public is invited to inspect the institution at any time” (“Sell Tags,” 1923). The Girls’ Home benefited from contributions by white people, but its success rested on the work of the Black-run RNA and its employees, as noted in the Richmond Planet, which called it a “worthy institution owned and controlled by Colored people” (“Block Day,” 1923).


The Richmond Neighborhood Association and Black Agency

The Girls’ Home, like the National Protective League for Colored Girls, the Day Nursery, and the Richmond Neighborhood Association itself, disappears from the newspaper record after 1924. This is likely due in part to changing societal needs and changing governmental approaches to meeting those needs, but it may also be a result of Ora Brown Stokes’s expanding vision. She continued her social welfare work through other avenues, including the Improved Order Shepherds and Daughters of Bethlehem, “a modern fraternity with a big twentieth century fraternal economic and sociological program” (“Improved Order,” 1928). She had helped found the organization in 1910 and was elected Grand Shepherd in 1924 (Bonis, 2019). In that role, she urged the group to “look out for the social welfare of its members” and pressed for “closer unity in developing [Black] institutions as they march forward toward the goal of economic success.” The Shepherds operated in six states and Washington, D.C., giving Stokes a large platform for her work (“Richmond Shepherds,” 1928).

Stokes could appeal both to Black unity and racial cooperation in order to advance the social welfare causes she worked for. As the RNA’s president, Ora Brown Stokes welcomed financial and social support from white people. In 1920, Mrs. Janet Randolph, a noted philanthropist who worked in the same circles as Stokes and other Black women to address societal needs, invited Stokes to speak to the Richmond Association of Methodist Women for Social Service. With a shrewd knowledge of her white audience, Stokes asked for cooperation in supporting the RNA. “She said the white people had worked for them. Now they begged to be permitted to work with them [white people], not on the basis of social equality, for they did not want that, but they did want the mutual confidence and good wishes of the races restored” (“Wants Confidence,” 1920).  Her carefully worded statement assured her listeners that the Jim Crow social order would not be disturbed, while at the same time demanded recognition of Black agency in addressing social ills. These women could then safely contribute funds at the next tag sale or even become dues-paying members of the RNA.

From 1912 to 1924, the Richmond Neighborhood Association allowed Richmond’s Black community to implement Progressive ideals through organizations controlled by Black people. Thousands of Black men, women, and young people supported and volunteered for the association and its projects, and thousands more benefited from its work in Richmond. Moreover, the RNA’s influence extended beyond the city. Activists in Minneapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, and cities across the South wrote to Stokes for advice on how the organization’s work was implemented, and she spoke about the RNA at national conferences (“Colored News Notes,” Jan. 9, 1920;  “Colored News Notes,”Jan. 22, 1920; “Delegates,” 1918; Untitled, 1918). The work and the influence of the Richmond Neighborhood Association is ripe for further investigation.


1. For more information about the boys’ reform school at Broad Neck, started in 1898 by John Smythe, see DuBois (1898). Janie Porter Barrett opened the Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls nearby in 1915.

2. In 1917, Stokes had been denied entry because of her race to the Richmond School of Social Economy, a predecessor of Virginia Commonwealth University (Bonis, 2019).

3. The building was constructed in 1871 “with funds solicited by the grandfather of Judge James Hoge Ricks of the juvenile and domestic relations court” (Morrison, 1917, p. 7).

4. The acuteness of the situation was exacerbated by the lack of institutions serving Black children in need. See Brooks (2017).

5. It appears the building at 500 West Clay was also used for lodging, at least for a time (“Richmond Neighborhood Association,” 1920).



$1,155.25 Raised for Girls’ Home June 29. (1920, July 10). Richmond Planet, 8.

Benefit Flood Sufferers. (1915, August 14). Richmond Planet, 1.

Bonis, R. (2019). Ora E. Brown Stokes (1882–1957). In Dictionary of Virginia Biography.

Block Day Here for Home and Asylum. (1923, April 14). Richmond Planet, 8.

Branch, M. M. (2020). Maggie Lena Walker (1864-1934). In Encyclopedia Virginia.

Brooks, C.M. (2017). The Uplift Generation: Cooperation across the Color Line in Early Twentieth-Century Virginia. University of Virginia Press.

“Bundle Day” is Observed. (1917, May 10). Evening Journal (Richmond, Va.), 3.

Butler, A. (2018). Making a Home Out of No Home: ‘Colored’ Orphan Asylums in Virginia, 1867-1930. [Doctoral dissertation, College of William and Mary].

Caffee, E.D. (1917, January). Colored Richmond. The Crisis 13(3), 124-132. 

Caffee, E.D. (1917, February). Personal [corrections]. The Crisis 13(4), 193. 

Caldwell, A. B. (1921) Ora Brown Stokes. History of the American Negro, Virginia Edition, Vol. 5. Caldwell Publishing. 

Carlton-LaNey, I. & Hodges, V. (2004). African American Reformers’ Mission: Caring for Our Girls and Women. Affilia, 19(3), 258-272.

Chatelain, M. (2015). South Side Girls: Growing Up in the Great Migration. Duke University Press. 

Clean-Up Work Topic of Big Meeting. (1913, April 23). News Leader (Richmond, Va.), 12.

Close Home for Orphans. (1919, December 24). Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12.

Colored Day Nursery Badly in Need of Funds. (1917, December 16). Richmond Times Dispatch, 10.

Colored Entertainers to Give Benefit Show. (1920, May 3). Richmond Virginian, 3.

Colored News Notes. (1919, November 17). Evening Journal (Richmond, Va.), 9.

Colored News Notes. (1920, January 9). Evening Journal (Richmond, Va.), 7. 

Colored News Notes. (1920, January 22). Evening Journal (Richmond, Va.), 3.

Colored News Notes. (1920, March 3). Evening Journal (Richmond, Va.), 3.

Colored News Notes. (1920, May 14). Evening Journal (Richmond, Va.), 4.

Colored People are After New Library. (1915, December 2). Evening Journal (Richmond, Va.), 5.

Day Nursery Problem Engages Attention. (1917, September 3). Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3.

Delegates in Attendance N.A.C.W. Session July 8-13. (1918, July 13). Colorado Statesman, 4.

Donations for Day Nursery. (1916, November 24). Evening Journal (Richmond, Va.), 3.

DuBois, W. E. B. (1898). Some Efforts of American Negroes for Their Own Social Betterment. Proceedings of the Third Conference for the Study of the Negro Problems. Atlanta University Press.

Fashion Show by Colored People. (1921, November 23). News Leader (Richmond, Va.), 13.

Finkelstein, A. S. (2021). Forgotten Veterans, Invisible Memorials: How American Women Commemorated the Great War, 1917-1945. University of Alabama Press.

Girls’ Conference Held Here. (1917, November 24). Richmond Planet, 5.

Girls Protective League! (1918, March 2). Richmond Planet, 1.

Good Work of ‘Clean-Up’ Shown. (1913, May 13). News Leader (Richmond, Va.), 1,2.

Hold Tag Day for Colored Nursery. (1922, December 13). News Leader (Richmond, Va.), 17.

How to Decrease Negro Death Rate. (1913, June 10). Richmond Virginian, 2.

Important Don’ts are Given to Housekeepers Concerning Clean-Up Week in Richmond. (1913, April 30). News Leader (Richmond, Va.), 1, 9.

Improved Order Shepherds and Daughters of Bethlehem. [Advertisement]. (1928, January 7). Richmond Planet, 8.

Judge Ricks Speaks to Large Audience. (1916, April 18). Evening Journal, 9.

League for Negro Girls Plans Aggressive Campaign (1916, December 5). News Leader. (Richmond, Va.), 10.

Morrison, E. Y. (1917, June 2). Plea for Colored Folks. Evening Journal (Richmond, Va.), 7.

National Protective League for Negro Girls, Incorporated. (1917, March 31). Richmond Planet, 1, 5.

Negroes Planning a Clean-Up Day. (1913, April 23). Richmond Virginian, 3. 

Negro Girls’ Quarterly Conference. (1917, January 27). Richmond Virginian, 4.

Now is the Time! (1923, December 22). Richmond Planet, 1.

Open Colored Day Nursery. (1917, January 2). Evening Journal (Richmond, Va.),10.

Origin of Colored Social Center. (1920, June 1). Evening Journal (Richmond, Va.), 6.  

Price, L.F. (1927). Virginia’s Welfare Work with Negroes. Southern Workman, 56(7), 325-327.

Richmond Neighborhood Association. (1920, January 24). Richmond Planet, 5.

Richmond Shepherds Celebrate Anniversary. (1928, June 23). Richmond Planet, 5.

Sell Tags Tomorrow for Negro Girls’ Home. (1923, June 14). News Leader (Richmond, Va.), 14.

Social Service Worthy of Support. (1919, May 2). Evening Journal (Richmond, Va.), 6.

Symposium on the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Law. (1923, February 17). Richmond Planet, 1.

To Aid Negro Girls. (1917, January 27). Evening Journal (Richmond, Va.), 2.

Today is ‘Heart Day’ for Colored Children in City. (1921, December 17). News Leader (Richmond, Va.), 7.

Untitled. (1918, July 27). Colorado Statesman, 5, col. 1. 

Wants Confidence of Races Restored. (1920, May 28). News Leader (Richmond, Va.), 16.

Weber, G. (1913). Report on Housing and Living Conditions in the Neglected Sections of Richmond, Virginia. Whittet and Shepperson.

 Will Discuss Social Work for Negro Girls. (1917, November 16). Richmond Virginian, 7.


For further reading

Bonis, R. (2019). Ora E. Brown Stokes (1882–1957). In Dictionary of Virginia Biography.

Brooks, C.M. (2017). The Uplift Generation: Cooperation across the Color Line in Early Twentieth-Century Virginia. University of Virginia Press.

Butler, A. (2018). Making a Home Out of No Home: ‘Colored’ Orphan Asylums in Virginia, 1867-1930. [Doctoral dissertation, College of William and Mary].

Carlton-LaNey, I. & Hodges, V. (2004). African American Reformers’ Mission: Caring for Our Girls and Women. Affilia, 19(3), 258-272.

Guild, J. P. (1934). Black Richmond. Survey Graphic, 23(6), 276 in Social Welfare History Project.

Michel, S. (2011). The history of child care in the U.S. Social Welfare History Project.

Randolph, Mrs. N. (1917, August 30). Conservation of Our Babies. [Letter to the editor]. Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6.

Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls, Social Welfare History Project


Angela Lehman is the recipient of a 2023 VCU Publishing Research Award.




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