Kizziah J. Bills
Kizziah Jones Bills was born in Florence, Alabama, in January of 1860. Her parents were Poindexter and Patsey [Hendricks] Jones and she was one of nine siblings. The family later moved to a small cabin in Davidson County, Tennessee. Bills had memories of the Ku Klux Klan visiting their home on numerous occasions, demanding that her father surrender his gun. Though hooded, her father recognized by their voices that they were related to his former owner before he was emancipated. When Bills was in her early twenties, she married Dr. Nathan J. Stith, who graduated from Central Tennessee College in Nashville and worked as a local physician. The couple had their son, Andrew, in August of 1889. Tragically, Nathan died shortly after, leaving Kizziah a widow. She continued to teach at a segregated public school, and a year later she married Satto Bills. They moved to Chicago in 1893, where Bills first became involved in black women's clubs in the city.
In 1901, Bills (now known as 'Kizzie') became a widow once again. She took on even more in activism at this time, serving as President of the Civic League, a member of the Grand Foundation United Order of True Reformers, and the recording secretary of The Tennesseans. She also became one of the earlier members of the Alpha Suffrage Club, one of the first clubs among African American women. Bills read a paper at the club's first annual banquet outlining the current political conditions and offered instruction on what they could be doing. By 1930, she was the writer of the "Clubs and Society" segment of the club's newspaper. Bills encouraged African Americans in Chicago to join the suffrage movement for the sake of association and social status.
Bills was famous for her piece on the "Birth of a Nation," a 1915 American silent film, known for being controversial in the way in which African Americans are portrayed by white actors in blackface. The film presents the Ku Klux Klan as some kind of heroic force necessary to preserve American values. In order to criticize the film properly, Bills decided she would watch it in full, and went on to write a piece challenging the overly sexualized depiction of black men and supposedly meek demeanor of African Americans in the face of the White South. She reassured readers of her position by recollecting her experiences growing up in the Reconstruction South.
Bills continued her voluntary work into the later parts of her life. She lived with her son and his family in Chicago and passed away in 1924 after a short bout of illness.
"I belive that the influence of woman will save the country before every other power."
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Kizziah J. Bills Idaho, B. (n.d.). BYU-Idaho Login. Retrieved November 16, 2020, from https://documents-alexanderstreet-com.byui.idm.oclc.org/d/1009972605