Children’s Religious Education: It Takes a Congregation

On Sunday, January 3rd, our fourth and final UU Visitor came through the Time Machine (that the kids built in September). The combined classes in grades 1-4 met with Fannie Barrier Williams to learn about her life and significance to us as Unitarian Universalists. Here is a short report of what they learned from her.

Francis Barrier was born in 1855 in upstate New York. Her parents were free blacks. Her siblings called her Fannie and she always went by that name. She grew up in the Baptist Church and music was always very important to her. After the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished, she was able to go to college. She was the first African-American woman to graduate from her college. Now that African-Americans could go to school, there was a big need for teachers. So Fannie became a teacher in the South, and experienced racial discrimination for the first time in her life.

     Fannie decided to pursue her love of painting and drawing and enrolled at an art school in Washington, D.C. Here again she experienced racism because they put screens around her so that the white students wouldn’t see her. Fannie decided to leave the art school because of this discrimination. Later, after she had moved to Boston, she thought she would go to the New England Conservatory of Music and improve her piano skills. This time, she was told by the administration that she would have to leave because the Southern white students were threatening to quit, because Fannie was black.

     Fannie married her husband, Samuel Laing Williams, when she was 37 years old and soon after they moved to Chicago. In Chicago, the Williams’ joined the All Soul’s (Unitarian) Church, where all people were welcome. Unitarian beliefs meshed well with Fannie’s worldview. The Williams’ never had any children of their own, but Fannie cared for young and old alike through her many public service endeavors.

     Fannie was passionate about civil rights and women’s rights. Fannie wanted the world to know how far African Americans had come since the end of the Civil War, and although African American women were not allowed to have a venue at the Chicago World’s Fair (the Columbian Exposition), Fannie was allowed to deliver two controversial speeches there during that year (1893). Fannie helped establish a hospital in Chicago that allowed black doctors to work alongside white doctors. A nursing school to train African American women as nurses was also founded. Fannie was the first African American member of the Chicago Women’s Club and helped to found the NAACP. She worked tirelessly to obtain women’s suffrage.

Fannie continued her activism throughout the rest of her life. She died in Chicago in 1944.

     The (Women’s) Alliance at First Church may have an opportunity to learn more about Fannie Barrier Williams later this spring. Keep a watch out for the chance to learn even more about this amazing Unitarian woman.

Special Activities for families in January

January 31: “Children and Technology” program for parents and other interested adults, between services (10:15-11:00 am); childcare provided. Facilitated by Diana Dill. Offered by Adult Programs.

CRE Opportunities for All at FCB

  • Would your family like to lead the Chalice Lighting during the worship service one Sunday this year? CRE is coordinating this effort to involve families in this element of the worship service on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month. Click on this link to sign-up: You will receive an e-mail reminder.
  • Non-parent teacher-volunteers are needed to assist our Childcare Provider, Denise Azar, in the Nursery at 9 and 11 am each Sunday. You can easily sign-up for this volunteer opportunity here: You will receive an e-mail reminder.

Children’s Religious Education Program Registration and Information

If you haven’t registered your children for CRE, please do so ASAP using the registration link found on the Children’s Religious Education page ( which allows you to register children from birth through 12thgrade. All children must be registered for CRE.

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