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Karen Batchelor, formerly known as Karen Batchelor Farmer, made headlines in 1977 this month when her selection as the first Black member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The D.A.R. is a membership organization that recognizes women who have direct family links with those who helped America gain its Independence.

The D.A.R. battled perceptions that it was a racist group after in 1939, it denied singer Marian Anderson permission to perform at its Constitution Hall performance venue in Washington, D.C. Despite the reputation, Batchelor fought hard to have her name included in the group’s rank as an ancestor supported American war efforts. She has also gone on record to say that the group never mistreated her in any way.

Batchelor’s admittance took place in October 1977, but a cover story by the New York Times and later the Washington Post made her something of an international figure. Using the momentum and her own solid research skills, Batchelor, who formerly worked in real estate, began her own genealogical society in Detroit to help African-Americans learn and preserve their history.

Lena Santos Ferguson also attempted to gain entry to the group, wanting to honor the Black and white sides of her family. She made headlines in 1984 after going public saying that the group denied her access because she was Black and it certainly appeared that way due to the press coverage. However, she was eventually granted membership.

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