By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
Callie House was born a slave in Rutherford, County, not too far from Nashville, Tennessee . House would get married at the young age of 22. Callie and her husband William House would have six children together, but only 5 of those children would survive. After Callie’s husband William House died, she would financially support herself and her family by being a washerwoman.
Later in life, House and a man named Isaiah H. Dickerson would travel through the former Confederate states that formerly sanctioned the ownership of them and their fellow Black people to gain support for the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association (MRB&PA).
They would have their gatherings in Black churches, because that was one of the only places Black people could somewhat safely come together without being threatened and harrassed by the White supremacist public.
The objective of the organization, which at its peak had hundreds of thousands of members was to provide compensation, mutual aid and to assist in burial costs of those Black people who were formerly enslaved.
The Federal Post Office Department, despite not having any proof would often accuse reparation organizations like the MRB&PA of committing fraud against its members in an effort to discredit the movement and sabotage their progress.
The Department of Justice would open an investigation on the MRB&PA, and they would eventually be forbidden from sending mail or money orders. In 1901, Dickerson would be found guilty of “swindling”, but the conviction would eventually be overturned. When Dickerson died in 1909, House would become the sole-leader of the MRB&PA. Despite interference and harrassment by the federal government and the Post Office Department the MRB&PA would go on for a while. Eventually though, trumped-up charges or not the Federal government would convict House in 1918, effectively ending the MRB&PA and their fight for reparations.
House would die in 1928 at the age of 66 or 67.
Years later her courage would be remembered and honored when in 2015 the African American and Diaspora Program at Vanderbilt University renamed their research center the Callie House Research Center for the Study of Black Cultures and Politics.
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