Grand Rapids Study Club began meeting in 1901 and was formally
organized on November 10, 1904 at the home of Mrs. Louisa Gaines.
Called initially the "Study Class," the purpose of the
organization was "to unite all efforts towards individual,
home and community betterment through study and civic cooperation
in all things which portends the advancement of all groups."
Several characteristics of the Club were introduced at its earliest
meetings, and have persisted to the present with only slight modification.
The Thursday meeting date and the Club year of October to may
were set then, and are still observed. Roll call began with the
second meeting, and each person answered with a thoughtful quotation.
That tradition also persists, as does the club motto, "Rowing,
not drifting." The Club has observed yellow and white as
its official colors since 1907.
traditions attest to the Club's stability and sense of history.
The programs it has supported over the years, and its involvement
with national organizations are evidence of the fact that it was,
and is, much more than a social organization. It has from its
inception, lived up to the objective stated in its first constitution.
1906, the Club joined the federation of Women's Clubs and sent
two delegates, Ms. Nadena Goings and Mrs. Daisy Lacey, to the
1907 National Convention. The Club also supported the efforts
of other local organizations. In 1962 it sponsored a meeting to
organize a City Federation of (Black) Clubs, and in that same
year a Junior Study Club was formed. Later, the name of that latter
organization was changed to the Pierian Club. It is still closely
associated with the Study Club.
the years, the main function of the Study Club has been its regularly
scheduled meetings and the discussion topics presented at them.
From the first, these topics have been remarkable for their broad
scope and their attention to current trends and events. The Club
has published annual programs since an initial hand-written effort
in 1907. In its archives the Club has a collection of these programs
beginning with 1917. A quick review of their pages reveal the
depth and breadth of the Club members' concerns. The 1917 program
lists programs on the "Problems after the War," "Negro
Poets and Musicians," and "Governor Osborn and Prison
years' programs announced topics such as the "Pro's and Con's
of Prohibition," "The Negro Woman's Contribution to
History," "Education of the Handicapped," a "Political
Survey of 1935," and the "Unpublished History of the
Negro Versus the Published." More recently, there have been
discussions on "Planned Parenthood," the "Church's
Role in Race Relations," and "Inner City Insurance Cancellations."
Club has also brought nationally known speakers to Grand Rapids.
In 1945, for example, Langston Hughes presented an address titled
"Poems of Negro Life" at the A.M.E. Community Church,
under the sponsorship of the Study Club. In 1960, Mr. Hughes returned
at the invitation of the Study Club and Fountain Street Baptist
Church. His address at the Church was open to the entire community.
A year later, Louis Lomax presented an address at Fountain Street
Church titled "The Negro in This Era of Transition and the
Crisis of Negro and White Leadership in a Free Society."
Once again, the address was under the joint sponsorship of the
Study Club and the Church.
1979, the Club celebrated its 75th anniversary and used that milestone
as the impetus for planning a more vigorous course for its current
membership and for initiating a restoration of the clubhouse located
at 427 James Street. During its early years, meetings were held
in members' homes. However, since 1935, the Club headquarters
have been located in the stately old clubhouse at 427 James. The
property was purchased with funds that had grown in a savings
account and in property investments started in the 1920's.
part of the 75th anniversary recognition plan, the Club intends
to restore the interior and exterior of their building. The members
plan to create office space and a library of Black history and
literature for use by community organizations on the second floor
of the building. The first floor will continue to be used for
Club functions as well as those of related organizations. A permanent
exhibit telling the history of the Club and its many activities
will be installed in the meeting room area.
Grand Rapids Study Club has a long and proud tradition of service
to the Grand Rapids Community. As it celebrates its 75th anniversary
and looks forward to its 100th, there can be little doubt that
its members will continue to "row" and not "drift,"
and that its revitalization plans will be carried out according
to the standards set by its founders.