From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Fortson, Bettiola Heloise

(born: 1890  -  died: 1917) Bettiola Fortson, poet, essayist, and suffragist, was born in Hopkinsville, KY, the daughter of James Fortson.

At the age of nine, she was a boarder with the William Evans family on E. 13th Street in Hopkinsville, KY, according to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. When she turned 12, she went to live with her aunt, Toreada Mallory, on Armour Avenue in Chicago, IL. When her aunt went abroad, Fortson lived with her mother, Mattie Arnold, in Evansville, IN, where she attended Clark High School. The family of four lived on Oak Street (Mattie, a widow, and her children Robert, Bettie, and James Jr.) [source: 1910 U.S. Federal Census].

Bettiola Fortson would become a poet who became poet laureate of her high school class. She graduated in 1910 and returned to Chicago where she worked in the feather industry and owned her own millinery business. She was a journalist and president of the University Society Club, 2nd vice president of the Alpha Suffrage Club, and city organizer of the Chicago Federation of Colored Women's Clubs. She was the author of the 1915 collection Mental Pearls: original poems and essays.

For more see Toward a Tenderer Humanity and a Nobler Womanhood, by A. M. Knupfer; Six Poets of Racial Uplift, by E. T. Battle, et. al.; Black American Writers Past and Present, by T. G. Rush; and "Miss Bettiola Fortson," Broad Axe, 8/01/1914, p. 2 [picture with article].

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Christian County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Hopkinsville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Original poems and essays ...
NKAA Source: Toward a tenderer humanity and a nobler womanhood : African American women's clubs in turn-of-the-century Chicago
NKAA Source: Six poets of racial uplift
NKAA Source: Black American writers past and present: a biographical and bibliographical dictionary
NKAA Source: The Broad axe (newspaper)

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry:  Mallory, Toreada D. Gardner

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Fortson, Bettiola Heloise,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed January 24, 2022,

Last modified: 2020-07-28 18:47:17