Early Illinois Women

Lena Doolin Mason (1864-?)

Lena Doolin was born in 1864 in Quincy, Illinois. She attended High School in nearby Hannibal, Missouri, and later attended Professor Knott's School in Chicago. In 1883, she married George Mason.

About 1887, Lena entered the ministry, being affiliated with the Colored Conference of the Methodist Church. She was a powerful evangelist, travelling throughout the United States, preaching to all white and later to racially mixed congregations..

Lena was also a poet and an artist. Her two surviving poems "The Negro and Education" and "A Negro In It" demonstrate her commitment to the civil rights for African Americans.

"A Negro In It" (reproduced below ) makes several references to important roles filled by African Americans in United States near the turn of the century. Mrs. Mason specifically points out the role African American soldiers played in the battle of San Juan Hill in 1898, during the Spanish-American War, and J. B. Parker's role in the capture of the assassin of President William McKinley in September 1901.

A Negro In It

By Mrs. Lena Mason

In the last civil war,
The white folks, they began it,
But before it could close,
The Negro had to be in it.

At the battle of San Juan hill,
The rough-riders they began it;
But before victory could be won
The Negro had to be in it.

The Negro shot the Spaniard from the tree,
And never did regret it;
The rough-riders would have been dead to-day
Had the he Negro not been in it.

To Buffalo, McKinley went,
To welcome people in it;
The prayer was prayed, the speech made,
The Negro, he was in it.

September sixth, in Music Hall,
With thousands, thousands in it,
McKinley fell, from the assassin's ball,
And the Negro, he got in it.

He knocked the murderer to the floor,
He struck his nose, the blood did flow;
He held him fast, all nearby saw,
When for the right, the Negro in it.

J. B. Parker is his name,
He from the state of Georgia came;
He worked in Buffalo, for his bread,
And there he saw McKinley dead.

They bought his clothes for souvenirs,
And may they ever tell it,
That when the President was shot
A brave Negro was in it.

He saved him from the third ball,
That would have taken life with it;
He held the foreigner fast and tight,
The Negro sure was in it.

McKinley now in heaven rests,
Where he will ne'er regret it;
And well he knows, hat in all his joys
There was a Negro in it.

White man, stop lynching and burning
This black race, trying to thin it,
For if you go to heaven or hell
You will find some Negroes in it.

Parker knocked the assassin down,
And to beat him, he began it;
In order to save the President's life,
Yes, the Negro truly was in it.

You may try to shut the Negro out,
The courts, they have begun it;
But when we meet at the judgment bar
God will tell you the Negro is in it.

Pay them to swear a lie in court,
Both whites and blacks will do it;
Truth will shine, to the end of time,
And you will find the Negro in it.


  1. Culp, Daniel W. (1902, reprinted 1969). Twentieth Century Negro Literature, J. L. Nichols Co., Atlanta; Mnemosyne Publishing Co., Miami.
  2. LaPrade, Candis, (1992) "Lena Doolin Mason" in Notable Black American Women. Smith, Jessie Carney, Ed. Gale Research Inc, Detroit, Michigan., Pp. 734-736.

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