The Daughters of the American Revolution is a historically white organization for woman descendants of rebel patriots that served in the American Revolution. For centuries, black women were discouraged from joining the group. But now there is a newly organized Jamaica Queens chapter of the D.A.R. It is among the first chapters in the groups’ history that carries a large black membership. Wilhelmena Rhodes Kelly, a black woman, founded the Jamaica Queens chapter.
Among the newest members is a new black chapter officer named Dr. Olivia Cousins. Cousins, who is a Professor in Manhattan and a student of genealogy, is a descendant of a mixed race relative who was part of the South’s war efforts. The Doctor comes from a family of educators; her sisters, also new members of the DAR, are teachers in North Carolina and Ohio area.
The Daughters of the American Revolution organization was founded in 1890. The controversy surrounding the disinterest of black women to the DAR was extended publicly when Marian Anderson, a singer who had asked to perform at Constitution Hall for the group in 1939, was banned. The event sparked enough discontent that Eleanor Roosevelt chose to exclude herself as a member. The reputation of the DAR carried on for decades after the event.
Five-thousand of the nearly 400,000 American soldiers in the Revolutionary war were black, though there their contribution was not fully given recognition. Many of the men were slaves and promised what resulted in revocable freedom if they served the patriots during the Revolutionary War.
As in the case of the Jamaica Queens, NY chapter of the DAR, more black women are joining the group, recognizing the contribution of their descendants to the war.
In 2008, the Daughters of the American Revolution released the publication, “Forgotten Patriots” to document the history of non-white patriots.
Because the organization’s application does not ask for racial background, the Daughters of the American Revolution apparently has not indication as to how many of its members are non-white or of mixed-race heritage.