In November of 1854, Reverend Byrd Parker and his wife Jane Janette Johnson welcomed a baby girl named Lillian Parker Thomas while living in Chicago, Illinois. Reverend Parker was the head Pastor of Quinn African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Jane Thomas was a teacher. Reverend Parker moved his family to Oshkosh, Wisconsin when Lillian was a young girl, they also moved to Indianapolis, Indiana. Reverend Parker died in 1860 while living in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Years later, Jane would marry a man named Robert E. Thomas, they would produce two children. Lillian began reading and writing at a very young age, this would benefit her as her family eventually moved to Indianapolis. She learned how to sew and became a freelance writer for newspapers to earn money for her family. Academically, she earned an education from the Indiana-Boston School of Elocution and the Indianapolis Institute for Young Ladies. Over the years, Lillian mastered her writing skills and by the age of 26 she became a reporter and correspondence editor for the Indianapolis Freeman, a well-known nationally distributed black-owned newspaper. She also gained a reputation as an excellent public speaker touring throughout the Midwest and the South several times representing various organizations.
In 1872, Lillian married a man named Wm. R. James, and the couple produced a daughter. The couple was married for 8 years before divorcing. In 1881, Lillian married Charles M. Thomas, they were married for 8 years, they divorced shortly after moving to Indianapolis, Indiana. Later in 1889, Lillian’s daughter would pass away. Lillian continued to build upon her career as a writer and a public speaker. In 1893, she married James E. Fox in Indianapolis, they were married for 5 years due to James Fox passing away in 1898. During her marriage to James Fox, Lillian retired from her job with the Indianapolis Freeman, but did continue her public speaking tours and writings from home. After the passing of Fox, she began writing for the Indianapolis News in 1900. This move made her the first African American to write a weekly column for the newspaper. In addition to writing and speaking, Lillian was active in her community. She joined several organizations aimed at improving, empowering, and protecting black communities in Indianapolis. She co-founded the Women's Improvement Club in 1903. In 1904, she was in charge of the organization that provided funding for the Indiana State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs. She also helped to advocate for their local health centers to treat black patients with tuberculosis.
Lillian used her writings to empower her people and was compared to Booker T. Washington. For 15 years, she wrote the column “News Of The Colored Folk” for the Indianapolis News and used her platform to promote local organizations, successes, progress, and the beauty of her community. As a speaker, she used her voice to amplify the messages in her writings. She became an Indiana state representative for the National Afro-American Council’s executive committee. She also became a representative for the Indianapolis Anti-Lynching League, and the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs. In 1895, Lillian was a guest speaker at the Atlanta Congress For Colored Women. As she aged she continued to write, speak, and collaborate with black organizations to uplift black Americans. As her health began to fail, she retired from the Indianapolis News in 1915. In August of 1917, Lillian Parker Thomas Fox died as a black pioneer in the state of Indiana. She opened the door for other black writers to not only write for black and white news papers, but to create their own lanes to write, and use their voices and their writings to make a living and make a difference. To Mrs. Lillian Parker Thomas Fox, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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