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Before the introduction of national welfare in the twentieth century, local charities and mutual aid societies provided financial assistance to the less fortunate and also provided entertainment and social outlets for members. These societies many times worked and cosponsored programs with local churches.
The Charlotte-based Winona Society, among other African American social organizations, sought to introduce liked-minded individuals with its social and racial uplift mission that included a self-improvement message. Winona Society was a particularly active organization in the Mecklenburg County area; its activities were reported in the Charlotte Messenger,
an African American newspaper. Winona Society was not alone during the 1880s. According to news reports in the Charlotte Messenger,
five other African America social societies existed: the Oriole, the Young Men’s Pleasure Club, the Young Ladies’ Pleasure Club, the Young Ladies’ Independent Club, and the Married Ladies’ Social Tea.