Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

February 19, 1910

On February 19, 1910, the Baltimore Afro-American noted that the Empty Stocking and Fresh Air Circle had elected officers. In addition to electing five (!) vice presidents, Ida Cummings was elected president of the social and charitable organization. Cummings was president of Empty Stocking and Fresh Air Circle for over two decades, and her name appears in the Afro-American dozens of time in the first decades of the twentieth century. In 1906, Cummings wrote a piece for the newspaper describing how the club worked over the summer to bring “joy and happiness to more than 275 people mostly children.” By 1925, the Afro-American described the Empty Stocking club as an “institution and indispensable part of our city.” The paper continued: “The citizens of Baltimore realize that in the service of these ladies is the sacrifice of self for the good of our future race.“ The newspaper noted that Cummings and the group played a particularly important role at Christmas time: “Following their usual custom of the past twenty years the Empty Stocking Club, of which Mrs. Ida Cummings is president, played Santa to a host of children that crowded the Metropolitan M.E. Church to the doors.”

The African American Registry website describes Cummings this way: 

Ida Rebecca Cummings was born on this date in 1867. She was an African American educator, organization leader, and clubwoman.
From Baltimore, Maryland, her father was a hotel chef and catering business owner; her mother operated a boarding house at their home. Cummings was raised in an environment that stressed learning, Black unity, and community service. The family church, Metropolitan Methodist, was a station stop with Underground Railroad and offered literacy classes before the city allowed Black public schools. This atmosphere was a large part of the children’s place of academia in their early years. The Oblate Sisters of Providence, an order of Black nuns, were Cummings’s first teachers.
She later attended Hampton Institute and Morgan State College; where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1922. Cummings began teaching primary school in 1900, moving to specialized courses in her home city and Chicago. Affectionately called “Miss Ida” by her students, Cummings taught for thirty-seven years. While teaching, she participated in organizations that worked to improve housing, health care, and education for poor children. In 1904, she and other members of the Colored YMCA established the Colored Empty Stocking and Fresh Air Circle.
They provided Christmas stockings to children who would otherwise have no gifts. The organization also aided in a healthier environment for these children by paying for boarding for them in rural homes during the summer. From 1912 to 1914, Cummings was secretary of the National Association of Colored Women and chair of the planning committee for its annual convention. She was a trustee of Bennett College, the first woman trustee of Morgan State College, and served as president of the Republican Woman’s League. Ida Cummings died in November 1958.

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