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Graves, Letitia A. (1863-1952)

Early 20th Century Seattle civil rights activist Letitia Ann Dennie Graves was born in 1863 in Illinois to Martha Murphy and George Dennie. Very little is known about Graves"s early life otherthan the fact that she and her husband, John Henry Graves, a Kansasstonemason, migrated to Seattle, Washingtonshortly after 1884. Letitia Graves first appears in the Seattle public record in 1906 when along withSusie Revels Cayton, Alice S. Presto, and Hester Ray, she organizes the DorcusCharity Club, one of the most successful of the black philanthropicorganizations established in pre-World War II Seattle.  The Club began in response to an urgentrequest from the Seattle Children"s Home officials for assistance in placingabandoned twin black girls in a private home. Because the girls had rickets, no adoptive parents would care forthem.  The Club assumed responsibilityfor the twins and placed them in a foster home. For the next three years Club members supported the children until theywere finally adopted.  

Graves emerges again in 1913 when she becameinvolved in the protest that initiated the founding of the Seattle branch of the National Associationfor the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The Seattle NAACP wasestablished on October 23, 1913 with 22 members. The Seattlebranch was created only four years after the NAACP was formed in New York and thus became one of the first branches westof the Mississippi River.  Letitia Graves was the first president of theSeattle NAACP branch and the vice president was Horace Cayton. Graves was a beautician who wasdetermined to protest the new policy of segregating black federal employees introducedby President Woodrow Wilson. 

In 1915 Letitia Graves got involved in thecontroversy over the showing of the film TheBirth of a Nation. Graves ledthe NAACP campaign to stop the showing of the film. The branch, however, wasnot successful in its efforts and Graves was forced to write an open letter toblack Seattlesaying the film would be shown.  Sixyears later, Graves and other NAACP

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