Civil Rights Tour: Protest - Thelma Dale (Perkins), Sojourner for Truth and Justice

1269 Sumner Road SE

In the late 1940s, Barry Farm/Hillsdale native Thelma Dale (later Perkins) quit her government job to become national secretary of the National Negro Congress (NNC) in New York. As a Howard University student in the 1930s, Dale had been a founding member of the Southern Negro Youth Congress, an offshoot of the NNC focused on organizing young African Americans to fight economic exploitation and racial discrimination. In DC, she helped secure black access to a whites-only "tourist camp" operated by a government concessionaire just in time for the NNC's national conference here in 1940. Like many other DC recreational facilities, the camp was operated by the Department of the Interior; it opened to African Americans only after the NNC published a report on the public recreation spaces throughout the city that barred black access.

Five years later, Dale traveled to Paris as one of twelve US delegates to the foundational meeting of the Women's International Democratic Federation, where she connected with women struggling against colonialism and racial oppression in other parts of the world.

Dale was also a member of Sojourners for Truth and Justice, known as the first and only Communist-left group led by black women. Sojourners provided support for women who were victims of racial violence, and in the fall of 1951, staged a candlelight vigil outside the White House when President Harry Truman refused to meet with the group.

Dale met Paul Robeson when she was managing editor for his Freedom newspaper and Robeson's wife, Eslanda, was active in Sojourners. She and her parents hosted the couple at their house at 1269 Sumner Road SE. In 1944, the Dale family purchased the adjacent market at 1265 Sumner Road, to service the Barry Farm/Hillsdale community. (It has since been razed.)