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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

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

Sophia D. West

Angelina Emily Grimké was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the youngest daughter of John and Mary Grimké. Her father was a well-known South Carolina judge as well as a powerful planter and slaveholder. Grimké owed much of her early upbringing and education to her sister, Sarah Moore Grimké (1792–1873), who was thirteen years her senior and her godmother. Maintaining their close relationship throughout their lives, the sisters often collaborated on and influenced each other's writing. They traced their abhorrence of slavery to their earliest memories of the struggles of slaves in their own home. The sisters were remarkable not only for their positions on slavery and women's rights but also because they turned their backs on an affluent slaveholding lifestyle, choosing instead a life of poverty without slaves and working for the freedom of slaves and the emancipation of women.

Eventually the Grimké sisters moved north to ...

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 ...

Article

Judith E. Harper

educator, suffragist, and clubwoman, was born in Sparta, Georgia, the fourth of eight children of Henry Hunt, a white planter and tanner, and Mariah Hunt, a mixed-race and Cherokee Indian woman of whom little else is known. Logan grew up in a prosperous neighborhood and attended Bass Academy in Sparta. At the age of sixteen, she attended the Upper Normal College (a school for teacher education) at Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated two years later in 1881, and then taught for two years at an American Missionary School in Albany, Georgia, where she also worked as a city missionary.

Although she was offered a position teaching at Atlanta University in 1883, Logan responded to the call of Booker T. Washington to teach at Tuskegee Institute Washington s renowned industrial school and college in Tuskegee Alabama Although teaching at the well ...

Article

Amalia K. Amaki

historian, academic, and writer, was born Nell Elizabeth Irvin in Houston, Texas, to Frank Edward Irvin, a chemist and chemistry administrator at the University of California at Berkeley, and Dona Lolita McGruder, a homemaker and personnel officer for the Oakland Public Schools. Her older brother Frank Jr. died during a tonsillectomy at age five in 1943. When Nell was just an infant, her parents moved to Oakland, California, seeking better work opportunities and living conditions. She attended public schools, including Oakland Technical High School, and she was an active youth member of Downs Methodist Church.

Nell Irvin enrolled in the University of California at Berkeley in 1960 and decided on an anthropology major after spending the summer of 1962 in Kano, Nigeria. A student participant in Operations Crossroads Africa she helped build a local school and experienced the country from a grassroots level ...

Article

James Lance Taylor

activist, was born Betty Dean Sanders in Pinehurst, Georgia (though she later claimed Detroit, Michigan), to Shelman “Juju” Sandlin, a Philadelphia steelworker, and Ollie Mae Sanders, who conceived her out of wedlock as a teenager. Rumors of maternal neglect (Sandlin was an absent father) landed Betty in Detroit, Michigan, with her devout Catholic foster parents Helen Lowe, a grammar school teacher, and Lorenzo Don Malloy a shoemaker and proprietor. She was their only child.

Growing up with the Malloys, young Betty witnessed Helen Malloy's activism in social uplift causes through a Detroit affiliate of the National Housewives League the National Council of Negro Women and the then militant National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Betty participated in the Detroit League s youth program where she competed in debutant contests studied Negro history and affiliated with the well regarded Del Sprites social club Long ...

Article

Darlene Clark Hine

Stewart was a prominent figure in the flourishing black women’s club movement in Indiana during the early decades of the twentieth century. A statewide network of scores of individual clubs provided space for black women to socialize and develop leadership skills. Such clubs were useful in galvanizing support for the establishment of an impressive array of welfare and service institutions designed to fulfill the distinct social, healthcare, and recreational needs of black Indianans.

By the 1920s, black women’s clubs were found in every major city in Indiana. For example, in Terre Haute, black women organized the Phillis Wheatley Association, which served as a recreational center and boardinghouse for young black girls; and Anna B. Barton, a beautician, organized the St. Pierre Ruffin Club in South Bend in 1900 where as she asserted black women could learn the finer things of life Literature Art and Music Other clubwomen founded ...

Article

Bernadette Pruitt

educator and clubwoman, was born Margaret James Murray in Macon, Mississippi, near the Mississippi-Alabama border, to Lucy (maiden name unknown), a washerwoman who was possibly a slave, and James Murray, who had immigrated to the United States from Ireland. After her father's death, seven-year-old Margaret left home to-live with her northern-born, white siblings, the Sanders. The Sanders, who were Quakers, taught school in their community and encouraged their little sister to pursue a career in education. Margaret's Quaker surroundings fostered in the growing girl a sense of social responsibility, community building, self-help, and obligation. Taking the advice of her siblings, she passed the qualifying exam and began teaching local schoolchildren at age fourteen.

The ambitious young woman, known to her friends and family as Maggie, quit her teaching job and entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1881 at the age of twenty She shaved four years ...

Article

Michelle Rief

Margaret Murray Washington was one of the most revered women of her time and her accomplishments are notable. She was a pioneer in the black women’s club movement, championed interracial cooperation, promoted black history in schools, and attempted to unite women of color around the world. Yet Margaret Murray Washington’s historical legacy remains overshadowed by both her marriage to Booker T. Washington, the most renowned black leader of the early twentieth century, and her own conservative approach in the face of more radical peers.

Ambiguity surrounds the birth and early upbringing of Margaret James Murray, known to friends as Maggie. Her birthplace is sometimes mistakenly identified as Macon, Georgia, but she was actually born in Macon, Mississippi, a small town located halfway between Jackson, Mississippi, and Birmingham, Alabama. The exact date of her birth is unknown. Although it is most commonly reported as 9 March 1865 census ...