Callie Guy-House
Callie Guy-House
Callie Guy-House (1861-1928) was an ex-slave who demanded a pension after serving as a house slave. She spent 70 years petitioning the Justice Department for ex-slave reparations.


 

Callie Guy-House
Callie Guy-House

Callie Guy-House is most famous for her efforts to gain reparations for former slaves and is regarded as the early leader of the reparations movement among African American political activists.  Callie Guy was born a slave in Rutherford Country near Nashville, Tennessee.  Her date of birth is usually assumed to be 1861 but due to the lack of birth records for slaves, this date is not certain.  She was raised in a household that included her widowed mother, sister, and her sister’s husband.  House received some primary school education.

At the age of 22, she married William House and moved to Nashville, where she raised five children.  To support her family, House worked at home as a washerwoman and seamstress.  In 1891, a pamphlet entitled Freedmen’s Pension Bill: A Plea for American Freedmen began circulating around the black communities in central Tennessee.  This pamphlet, which espoused the idea of financial compensation as a means of rectifying past exploitation of slavery, persuaded House to become involved in the cause that would become her life’s work.  

With the help of Isaiah Dickerson, House chartered the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association in 1898, and was named the secretary of this new organization.  Eventually House became the leader of the organization. In this position she traveled across the South, spreading the idea of reparations in every former slave state with relentless zeal.  During her 1897-1899 lecture tour the Association's membership by 34,000 mainly through her efforts.  By 1900 its nationwide membership was estimated to be around 300,000.  

House's activism was not without controversy.  Newspapers of the time often ridiculed her efforts and the federal government attempted to arrest her and other leaders of the Association.  In 1916, U.S. Postmaster General A.S. Burleson sought indictments against leaders of the association claiming that they obtained money from ex-slaves by fraudulent circulars proclaiming that pensions and reparations were forthcoming. House was convicted and served time in the Jefferson City, Missouri penitentiary from November 1917 to August 1918.  Callie House died in Nashville at the age of 67 on June 6, 1928 from cancer.


 

Callie Guy-House
Callie Guy-House
Callie Guy House (1861-1928) was an early leader of the Reparations Movement which called for compensation for the slavery of Americans of African descent.


 
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Certificate of membership in the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association. (Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, RG 15)
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Senate Bill 1176 is representative of the ex-slave pension bills introduced in both houses of Congress. This bill s new feature was the proposed pension payment scale based upon the age of beneficiaries. (Records of the U.S. Senate, RG 46)
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Callie Guy-House
Callie Guy-House
Callie Guy-House was convicted by an all-male, white jury on the charge of mail fraud, resulting in a sentence of a year and one day. She served her sentence in the Jefferson City, Missouri, penitentiary from November 19


 
Mount Ararat Cemetery
Mount Ararat Cemetery
Callie Guy-House died on June 6, 1928 from cancer, and is buried in the old Mt. Ararat cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee in an unidentified grave.


 
Callie Guy-House
Callie Guy-House
Callie Guy-House (1861–1928) was a leader of the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association, one of the first organizations to campaign for reparations for slavery in the United States.




 

Vanderbilt University Renames Black Studies Research Center After Former Slave and Early Reparations Activist Callie Guy-House

Early Reparations Activist Callie House

19th Century Reparations Activist Callie House

The African American and Diaspora Studies Program at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, recently renamed its research arm the Callie House Research Center for the Study of Black Cultures and Politics. The center was founded in 2012 and sponsors lectures, conferences, working groups, professional development and academic seminars.

Callie House was born a slave in Rutherford County, Tennessee, in 1861. After she was freed, she worked as a seamstress and washerwoman in Nashville. She became interested in social justice and politics and led the first mass slave reparations movement in the United States. In 1898, she helped found the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association.

Mary Frances Berry, the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, gave the keynote address at the renaming ceremony. Professor Berry is the author of My Face Is Black Is True: Callie House and the Struggle for Ex-Slave Reparations (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005).