Grace Baxter Fenderson (1883-1962)

Grace Baxter Fenderson )

Educator Grace Baxter Fenderson was born on November 2, 1883, in Newark, New Jersey, to James Miller Baxter from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Pauline Louisa Mars from Brooklyn, New York. Her father was the first Black principal in the Newark Public School system, and her brother, James Leroy Baxter, was a New Jersey state legislator.
Baxter Fenderson graduated from Newark High School and Newark Normal School (now Kean University), where she studied pedagogy. In 1907 she was hired to teach arithmetic, Language Arts, and science at Monmouth Street School in Newark, where she remained until her retirement in 1948. She was among the first Black teachers in the Newark Public Schools and one of the first Black women to preside over the Monmouth School Parent Teachers Association (PTA).
Baxter Fenderson was equal parts community activist and civil rights leader. She and her brother co-founded the Newark chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1914. By 1922, Newark was hosting the organization’s national meeting. That year Baxter Fenderson, a supporter of the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill, which the House of Representatives had passed in January, organized a parade in Newark to rally support for its ratification. The bill, sponsored by Missouri Representative Leonidas Dyer, a progressive White Republican who led a primarily African American district, wanted lynch mobs charged with capital murder and all cases tried in federal court. The bill failed to progress beyond the Senate floor due to a filibuster by Southern Democrats.
In 1936, Fenderson joined the National Board of Directors of the NAACP. Indeed, she served on the board of many civic organizations, including the Lincoln-Douglass Memorial Association, The Newark chapter of the National Urban League, and the Sojourner Truth Branch of the Newark Young Women’s Christian Association, among many others. In 1940 she ran for state assembly as a Republican candidate representing Essex County.
In 1959 Grace Baxter Fenderson received the Sojourner Truth Award from the New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs (NANBPWC). She died on March 21, 1962, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, aged 78. She was survived by her husband, Walter E. Fenderson, whom she married in 1917. He died in 1973.