Influential Black Women
Six times a year, the editors of the Oxford African American Studies Center provide insights into black history and culture, showing ways in which the past and present interact by offering specially commissioned featured essays, photographic essays, and a selected list of articles that will further guide the reader. This month the Focus On article highlights African American women who have worked towards the common goal of social justice.
In 1940 Mary Church Terrell wrote, "A white woman has only one handicap to overcome—a great one, true, her sex; a colored woman faces two—her sex and her race." This doubling of oppressions—sexism and racism—remains in effect seventy years after Terrell's statement and is often compounded by other factors such as class differences, sexuality, and/or disability. Despite social structures that have put black women at a disadvantage, they have historically risen to the challenge. This history of strength begins with African American leaders such as Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth who worked ardently against slavery and became icons in the history of emancipation. They were followed by activists and education leaders such as Mary McLeod Bethune and Mary Church Terrell. Other women such as Billie Holiday, Odetta, and Gwendolyn Brooks used their art as a way to promulgate social change. This month's feature looks at several black women—activists, educators, and artists—who have used their influence to work towards a more just society.View photo essay
The following articles have been selected to help guide readers who want to learn more about the lives of influential African American women. (Access to the following articles is available only to subscribers.)