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Naming Ourselves

“Distinction without Difference” Primrose Social Club slogan

The name of each African American civic or social group tells a tale. Some names are straightforward and serious, while others are mysterious or humorous, broadcasting messages that only members would understand. In the first two decades of the 20th century, court cases triggered by racism gave the Knights of Pythias and the Elks of the World the right to use the names and titles their charters ensured. The original name was of the Revelers was Nem Deroloc, “Colored Men” spelled backwards. The Glossilla Art Club was not an art club but a sewing club, named after the brand of thread the group favored. The Progressive Sewing Club did not sew at meetings; they served others and socialized among themselves. The Ladies of Leisure did not spend their time relaxing; they promoted African American culture and raised funds to benefit others. The Serenade Club did not sing but instead provided financial support “to initiate positive programs and wholesome activities for youth.” The Dukes and Earls are remembered by the daughter of a member as “a close knit bunch of men” who “thought they were good looking men and named themselves accordingly.”

Exhibit Items

  1. Dukes and Earls
  2. Happy Pals
  3. Helping Hand Club
  4. The Pearls

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