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America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
Mary Sprow

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Mary Sprow
Courtesy Abena Lewis collection


This object appears in the following sections:

People on the Move:
People on the Move — Mary Johnson Sprow: Migrant, Commuter

Mary Sprow at work

Mary Sprow
Not a part of the official Smithsonian Collection
An accomplished seamstress, Mary Sprow made many of her stylish clothes by modifiying items given to her by her employers.
Physical Description
Photograph of Mary Sprow
Dist of Columbia
Courtesy Abena Lewis collection
At age 12, Mary Johnson, like many young rural African American women, was sent by her family to work in Washington, D.C., as a live-in domestic. Throughout the first half of the 20th century thousands of African Americans migrated north, fleeing poverty and violence for the promise of economic opportunity and greater equality. While Mary traveled north by train, others made the journey by bus, boat, or automobile.

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