Born into one of the oldest and well-documented free black families in America, Nellie May Quander was a life-long advocate for civil rights, women’s rights, social reform, and education.
While continuing to work as a public school teacher, Nellie Quander enrolled at Howard University in 1910 at the age of 30. She joined the newly formed Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. (AKA is one of the Divine 9: the first 5 African-American fraternities and 4 African-American sororities). She helped incorporate the sorority so that it could be nationally recognized and have chapters at other universities and served as president. She graduated magna cum laude with a BA in history, economics, and political science. She went on to earn a Masters at Columbia University, Washington D.C. extension. She also earned a social work degree from New York University and a diploma from University of Uppsala, Sweden. She was an active board member of the YWCA and devoted her life to helping her community.
When the 1913 Washington D.C. suffrage parade was being planned, Nellie Quander, as president of the sorority, wrote Alice Paul that “there were a number of college women of Howard University who would like to participate in the women suffrage procession,” but “do not wish to enter if we must meet with discrimination on account of race affiliation.” Two days later, Nellie Quander wrote Paul a second letter, reiterating the desire to participate and requesting to be assigned in a “desirable place in the college women’s section.” On March 3, 1913, almost 50 African American women participated in the 1913 Women’s Suffrage Parade, including women from Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, and New York, and Washington D.C., including young women from Howard University.
b. Feb 11, 1880 | d. Sept 24, 1961
The Story of the Woman Who Saved an International Organization
by Rohulamin Quander (2008)
The biography features multiple testimonials, including from Dr. Dorothy I. Height, former president, National Council of Negro women, Barbara A. McKinzie, 27th International President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and Louise A. Rice, 23rd International President of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Nellie Quander’s life is an integral part of American history. It should be read by everyone.
Quander Family and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. wreath-laying ceremony held during the Centennial Celebration on January 15, 2018 at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, Suitland, MD
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The Quanders: Since 1684, an Enduring African-American Legacy was released on January 29, 2021 and is available for purchase. Written and published by author and family historian, Judge Rohulamin Quander, this is the first detailed, historical account of the internationally known Quander family, one of the oldest documented African American families in the country with a 350 year lineage dating back to colonial Maryland. This new book is the first primary single source encapsulating this fascinating, multi-century story.