Mary White Ovington dedicated her whole life to the fight against racial discrimination. Raised in a religious (Unitarian), abolitionist home, she developed a strong sense of social justice from an early age. She began by attending prestigious schools and colleges, and was on the path to the live of a well-educated and successful white woman. In such a life, one can imagine that she would have worked for woman's suffrage, as she did, which would have benefited herself. Due to a setback in her father's business, however, her situation changed and she had to abandon her college education.
Her work became service to others. She helped found a Settlement house to help the poor, and she soon became interested in the plight of black Americans. She believed that African-Americans should have the same rights and privileges as white Americans, and acknowledged that it was white prejudice that prevented them.
Joining W. E. B. Du Bois and his Niagara Movement as one of three white members, Ovington was instrumental in organizing the resulting NAACP and in directing its agenda. While other black leaders opposed the NAACP and the involvement of white people in the struggle for African-American civil rights, Ovington worked tirelessly for the betterment of those different from herself. Ovington's work with the NAACP bore fruit in significant victories, some after her death, which include ending racial segregation in education, in bringing public attention to lynchings of black Americans, and in successful voter registration of black Americans and their subsequent voting in elections, all steps towards achieving a society in which all people live together as one human family.