Mary E. Britton (1855-1925), Kentucky school teacher and journalist, won notoriety for a powerful speech in 1893 against a bill for segregated seating in railroad coaches that was before the state legislature. The speech inspired the great author Paul Laurence Dunbar to write a poem entitled, "To Miss Mary Britton," which includes the following lines:
Give us to lead our cause
More noble souls like hers,
The memory of whose deed
Each feeling bosom stirs;
Whose fearless voice and strong
Rose to defend her race,
Roused Justice from her sleep,
Drove Prejudice from place.
The following year, Mary Britton was one of eighteen founding members of the Lexington, Kentucky Seventh-day Adventist Church, one of the denomination's earliest black congregations, in which she remained a leader for the remainder of her life. After studying medicine at the American Medical Missionary College in Chicago, she became, in 1902, the first African American licensed to practice medicine in Kentucky. She is credited with having "dedicated her life to making health care more equitable."
Britton continued the fight against segregation during her years as an Adventist, organizing rallies and writing numerous newspaper articles. Additionally, she advocated for woman suffrage and abstinence from alcohol and tobacco, and was founding director of the Colored Orphan Industrial Home.
For more on Mary Britton, see the presentation developed by Pastor Steve Norman at the South Central Conference History page.