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Article

Baqi<ayn>e Bedawi Muhammad

Sudanese educator and human rights activist for women’s rights and an advocate for freedom and democracy, was born on 30 May 1935 in Omdurman one of three cities that constitute the capital of Sudan Khartoum Khartoum North and Omdurman Her parents were originally from the Nubian region in northern Sudan Ahmed was the only female among her three siblings She grew up in an environment that helped shape her future life as a liberal and progressive individual Her father Ibrahim Ahmed was an engineer who worked as a teacher in Gordon Memorial College Sudan He played an active role in Sudan s independence movement and served as the first Sudanese Deputy to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Khartoum the first chairman of the University of Khartoum Senate a member of the Executive Council the first Sudanese Parliament and founder and president of Mutamar a l Khiregeen Graduates ...

Article

Darlene Clark Hine

A version of this article originally appeared in Black Women in America, 2nd ed.

Anna Julia Cooper, in what is considered the first black feminist text, A Voice from the South (1892), declared, “As our Caucasian barristers are not to blame if they cannot quite put themselves in the dark man’s place, neither should the dark man be wholly expected fully and adequately to reproduce the exact Voice of the black Woman.” African American women have written autobiographies since the 1700s. Today, the many forms of autobiography—memoirs, essays, notes, diaries, advice, and self-help—constitute one of the most important genres in black writing.

Some of the most exciting and dynamic work written at the beginning of the twenty first century focused attention on the social history of black women These autobiographical writings both outside and within the academy occupied in a sense the frontier sites of public discourse ...

Article

Caroline M. Fannin

Despite gender and race discrimination, and despite the small numbers of black women active in aviation, black women have contributed notably to the encouragement of black Americans’ participation in aviation and to the furtherance of aerospace research.

Article

Tiffany M. Gill

Black is beautiful This familiar cry of the Black Power movement was revolutionary in its celebration of the culture style politics and physical attributes of peoples of African descent Symbols of the black is beautiful aesthetic most notably the Afro not only conjured up ideas about black beauty but also highlighted its contentious relationship with black politics and identity This tension between beauty standards and black politics and identity however did not first emerge in the late twentieth century with the Afro or the Black Power movement In fact blacks particularly black women have been struggling to navigate the paradoxical political nature of black identity and beauty since their enslavement in the Americas Despite this strained relationship black women have actively sought to define beauty in their lives and in the process created and sustained one of the most resilient and successful black controlled enterprises in America the black beauty ...

Article

Darlene Clark Hine

organizer of black women and advocate for social justice, was born Mary Jane McLeod in Mayesville, South Carolina, the child of the former slaves Samuel McLeod and Patsy McIntosh, farmers. After attending a school operated by the Presbyterian Board of Missions for Freedmen, she entered Scotia Seminary (later Barber‐Scotia College) in Concord, North Carolina, in 1888 and graduated in May 1894. She spent the next year at Dwight Moody's evangelical Institute for Home and Foreign Missions in Chicago, Illinois. In 1898 she married Albertus Bethune. They both taught briefly at Kindell Institute in Sumter, South Carolina. The marriage was not happy. They had one child and separated late in 1907. After teaching in a number of schools, Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Training Negro Girls in Daytona, Florida, in 1904 Twenty years later the school merged with a boys school the ...

Article

Elaine M. Smith

Long deemed the most influential black American woman, Bethune is, by scholarly consensus, one of the most important black Americans in history regardless of gender, alongside Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Martin Luther King Jr. Unflinchingly, she championed the democratic values that define the nation. She took personally the well-being of the body politic, particularly in the crisis of two world wars. President Franklin D. Roosevelt viewed Bethune as a great patriot devoted to advancing all Americans. Bethune’s accomplishments were so impressive in relationship to resources, and her interest in people, regardless of nationality and locality, was so genuine, that any freedom-loving country could feel proud to claim her as its own.

Article

Jeremy Rich

first female prime minister of Senegal, was born in the coastal city of Saint Louis, Senegal. She came from a family of lawyers, including her father, one brother who worked for the Supreme Court of Senegal, and another brother who received an advanced law degree, became a professor of international law, and eventually became the head of the University of Dakar. Boye herself attended primary school in her home city before graduating from the Lycée Faidherbe secondary school and enrolling in an undergraduate law degree program at the University of Dakar in 1963 She then studied law at the Centre National d Études Judiciaries CNEJ in Paris Once she finished her studies in France she returned to Senegal and began to work as an assistant prosecutor for the government Boye became an assistant judge in a court at Dakar and later rose to be president of the Senegalese Court ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

elocutionist, educator, women's and civil rights leader, and writer, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Thomas Arthur Brown, a riverboat steward and express agent, and Frances Jane Scroggins, an educated woman who served as an unofficial adviser to the students of Wilberforce University. Thomas Brown was born into slavery in Frederick County, Maryland, the son of a Scottish woman plantation owner and her black overseer. Brown purchased his freedom and that of his sister, brother, and father. By the time of the Civil War, he had amassed a sizable amount of real estate. Hallie's mother, Frances, was also born a slave, the child of her white owner. She was eventually freed by her white grandfather, a former officer in the American Revolution.

Both of Hallie's parents became active in the Underground Railroad. Around 1864 the Browns and their six children moved to Chatham Ontario where ...

Article

Sharla M. Fett

The history of African American women’s childbearing is one of cultural resilience and profound structural oppression. Far more than a mere biological event, childbirth has been an important social and religious experience in African American communities. At the same time, slavery, poverty, and discrimination have strongly shaped the social realities of childbearing for many black women. Despite important changes in birth practices over the last three centuries, the experiences of pregnancy and childbirth continue to be closely connected to the broader political and economic struggles of African American women.

From the many cultures of West and Central Africa captive women carried their understandings of birth into the slave societies of the New World Though widely varied African gender systems emphasized the importance of motherhood and fertility to women s social identity and family lineage Captivity by slave traders brought African social institutions of childbirth into a collision with slavery s ...

Article

Wilma King

A variable social construction, the concept of childhood barely existed in early America. In fact, this special period of growth and development experienced before accepting adult responsibilities was not an entrenched American institution until the twentieth century. The time at which this protected segment of the lifecycle ends is debatable. Some scholars and public officials have used twelve as the cutoff while others set it at age sixteen or eighteen. Still others claim childhood lasts until twenty-one years of age.

Age limits aside, other factors, including color, class, status, and the embracing shield of loved ones, are significant in determining if girls enjoy a protected period in their formative years. There are also concerns about their psychological well-being and freedom from emotional devastation, which may mature girls beyond their chronological years.

Article

Wim Roefs

When Rosa Parks in December 1955 refused to give her seat to a white man on a segregated city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, she was not a tired little old lady turning accidental hero, as many have perceived her. She was only forty-two years old and no more tired than usual after a day’s work. More importantly, Parks was an experienced local civil rights activist who had defied bus segregation laws several times before 1955. She had been an official in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which she had joined in 1943. She had worked in voter registration campaigns. Parks did not just stumble into history. She already was an impo rtant, albeit not the most important, example of the many black women in the struggle against white supremacy and for racial equality in the United States.

Other African American women also were ...

Article

Daniel A. Dalrymple

Democratic Congresswoman Collins was a mainstay in the United States House of Representatives for more than twenty years. She was the first woman and African American to serve as the Democratic whip-at-large and the first African American to chair a subcommittee of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Collins’s career was defined by her strong congressional record on a wide variety of issues, focusing on African Americans, women, and the environment. She was a congresswoman who refused to be pigeonholed as a single-issue representative and spoke up whenever she saw injustice.

Cardiss was born to the laborer Finley Robertson and the nurse Rosia Mae Robertson in St. Louis, Missouri. Her family relocated to Detroit in 1941 when she was ten years old. While in Detroit she attended Bishop and Lincoln Elementary Schools before graduating from the Detroit High School of Commerce. In 1958 Cardiss married George W. Collins before ...

Article

Charles Lemert

Anna Julia Cooper is best known for her book A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South (1892), a classic in the tradition known today as the woman of color standpoint in social theory. No one before, except perhaps Sojourner Truth, had so clearly defined what Cooper called “the colored woman’s office” in the moral politics of late-nineteenth-century America.

Anna Julia Cooper was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of Hannah Stanley, a slave. Her white biological father, George Washington Haywood, was her mother’s owner. Of her biological father, Cooper once wrote: “I owe him not a sou and she [her mother] was always too shamefaced ever to mention him.” The child grew to carry herself with the mother’s sense of dignity and propriety.

Anna Julia s life began just before the outbreak of the American Civil War and ...

Article

Jane E. Dabel

From the period of slavery onward, African American women have labored outside of the home in many roles, and most prominently as domestic servants. Because employment has been the key to their survival, and though racism and sexism have limited their employment opportunities, black women have always attempted to make the best of their employment situation. Throughout their wage-earning experiences, black women have always sought to control and shape their lives as laborers.

Article

Juliet E. Walker

African American women have a long tradition of participation in business, including entrepreneurial activities. In colonial America, their initial economic activities, primarily gender-based household manufacturing, farming, trade, and marketing ventures, were derived from activities that had been important to women in precolonial Africa. By capitalizing on culturally familiar agriculture techniques, African women were able to enter the colonial American economy as truck farmers and market women. By the nineteenth century, food trading by African women was so substantial that, as one diarist noted in Louisiana, “The market places are filled with c…. They have control of the markets in New Orleans [and] bring their products to the market very neatly.”

Urban areas such as New Orleans offered the most opportunities for black women both enslaved and free to establish business ventures Throughout the period of slavery food marketing and preparation constituted the largest occupational category among black women in business ...

Article

Patricia Hunt-Hurst

Fashion has been a phenomenon of collective behavior since the fourteenth century Yet as an industry in the United States it did not exist until the beginning of the nineteenth century The early fashion industry in the United States was based on custom made clothing fitted to the individual Tailors produced custom made suits for men and women dressmakers also known as mantua makers specialized in women s dresses skirts and bodices The mass production of clothing did not begin until the mid nineteenth century with menswear At that time women s wear including such items as cloaks and mantles was still produced on a small scale As a result there was a need for skilled needlewomen to produce custom made clothing The fashion industry created significant opportunities for women in the needle trades as dressmakers seamstresses and tailors and later as designers models fashion writers and editors and factory ...

Article

V. P. Franklin

She was born to Benjamin Oliver Bird and Portia E. (Lovett) Bird in Princess Anne, Maryland, but was raised in Boston by her maternal aunt, Lucy Groves. There she attended public schools and was considered an outstanding student. Later in life Fauset maintained that her social and political conscience was shaped by her experiences as a child in Boston. She went on to Teachers College, Columbia University, where she earned a BS degree in 1931.

Upon graduation Crystal Bird worked as a social worker and administrator of Negro affairs for the Young Women’s Christian Association in New York City and Philadelphia. In 1931 she married the author and educator Arthur Huff Fauset. The couple separated soon after their marriage, and he divorced her in 1944. In 1933 she was named executive secretary for the Institute of Race Relations at Swarthmore College While serving in ...

Article

Ula Y. Taylor

As both an analytical tool and a political paradigm, black feminisms—referred to here in the plural because there is no one feminism—are fluid and diverse, focusing in various ways on the convergence of race, gender, sexuality, class, spirituality, and culture. This diversity is often oversimplified in an effort to provide a single, coherent picture.

The primary expressions of black feminism in the United States are marked by three distinct periods or waves that are directly connected to, and grew out of, key movements in African American history: the abolitionist movement, which culminated with the suffragists’ securing passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920; the modern civil rights and black power movements, which peaked with the enforcement, during the 1970s, of Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the post Civil Rights era that helped to usher in the professionalization and institutionalization of ...

Article

Kathleen Thompson

It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of the writer and educator Paula Giddings to the study of black women’s history. Possibly even more important is the role she played in disseminating that history to the American public. A rigorous scholar, graceful writer, and committed advocate of black women, Giddings was a writer of history who made history herself.

Paula Giddings was born in Yonkers, New York. Her father, Curtis G. Giddings, was a teacher and guidance counselor and, later, the first black firefighter in Yonkers. Her mother, Virginia I. Giddings, was also a guidance counselor. In an interview in Essence in 1995 Giddings said of her parents My father was the race conscious person in my family but it was my mother who gave me my voice She did this I know now by clearing a space where mywords could fall grow then find ...

Article

Amy Grant

The intrepid bell hooks has been one of America’s premier social critics, although often incorrectly categorized as merely a black feminist. It would be more accurate to characterize her as a public intellectual engaged in the arts of literary, film, and popular cultural criticism and committed to the struggle against racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Many of her writings, interviews, and public speeches identified these dominant discourses as serious impediments designed to inhibit people from realizing a fuller understanding of themselves and their fellow human beings. Hooks sought to dismantle these dominant political discourses by exposing their use in art, literature, and film. Meanwhile, hooks encouraged those most damaged by these ideas, such as black women, to join this struggle, believing strongly that the elevation of black womanhood will result in the liberation of blacks and American society itself.

Bell hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky ...