(November 1854 – August 29, 1917). Lillian Thomas was born in Chicago to the Reverend Byrd Parker, pastor of Quinn African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Jane Janette Thomas, a schoolteacher. She was raised in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, moving to Indianapolis in the early 1880s. She began writing at an early age. By the late 1880s, she achieved recognition for her work as reporter and correspondence editor for the Indianapolis Freeman, a nationally prominent Black newspaper. She also made several speaking tours in the Midwest and South for various political and religious organizations.

Indiana State Federation of Colored Women's Club, ca. 1927
© Digital image 2015 Indiana Historical Society. All Rights Reserved.

In 1893, Thomas retired from the Freeman after her marriage to James E. Fox, a Jamaican merchant-tailor from Pensacola, Florida, who relocated his business to Indianapolis. Although she curtailed her career, Fox continued her work with community and national civic organizations such as the Afro-American Council, the Atlanta Congress of Colored Women at the 1895 National Exposition, and the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs.

After separation from her husband in the late 1890s, Fox returned to journalism. In 1900 the Indianapolis News hired her as the first African American to write a regular news column in any white Indiana newspaper. 

For the next 14 years, Fox used her contacts with the white community and her position at the News to further the social and political agendas of many Black community organizations, among them the Woman’s Improvement Club, founded by Fox in 1903. The club not only provided its members with an opportunity for self-expression and growth but between 1905 and 1935 provided health care to Black tuberculosis patients and scholarships and assistance to indigent Black citizens. 

A superb organizer, Fox also founded the Indiana State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs and had memberships in other community organizations, including Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Literary Society and the Alpha Home Association.

Revised February 2021
 

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