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Article

Vickey Kalambakal

Susan Brownell Anthony was born in Adams, Massachusetts, to an unusual family. Her father was a Quaker; at the religious meetings she attended as a child, women were allowed to speak and were on an equal footing with men. The family was prosperous, and her parents encouraged freethinking and activism in their children. Anthony became an abolitionist and participant in the Underground Railroad. She is best remembered as one of the leaders and organizers of the women's suffrage movement.

Anthony's family moved from Massachusetts to Rochester, New York, in 1845. Over the next few years, the abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass also a resident of Rochester became a frequent visitor and speaker at Sunday meetings at the Anthony farm where abolition was discussed Like many reform minded people of the day Anthony also joined the local temperance society After being denied the chance to speak at ...

Article

Darlene Clark Hine

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 concerning certain private life issues and social policies that were important to the reconstruction ...

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

Rose C. Thevenin

Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale organized the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP) on 15 October 1966, in Oakland, California. They devised a Ten Point Platform and Program to demand self-determination, employment, land, food, and education along with an end to robbery by capitalists in the black community. The BPP Program also insisted upon exemption from military service, an end to police brutality, freedom for all incarcerated men, trials by a jury of peers, and justice and peace for all oppressed minorities.

Although the BPP was founded by men and emphasized some programs directly related to black men, women were integral to the organization and worked for the greater good of their people without regard for gender conventions.

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

Robert Olwell

The 1740 South Carolina slave code allowed slaves to attend the Charleston marketplace only if they carried tickets from their masters detailing precisely what they were to buy or sell and at what price However many of the enslaved parlayed this small de jure permit into a much larger de facto liberty by which they purchased goods coming to market and resold them for a profit In effect they acted as independent marketeers while still enslaved Customarily after paying their master an agreed upon wage such enslaved marketeers could keep any surplus they earned for themselves Such extra legal arrangements allowed individual slave owners to collect a steady income from their slaves labor and from the market even when they had no work for the slaves to do or produce of their own to sell But as enslaved marketeers came to dominate the marketplace slaveholders collectively expressed their resentment ...

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

Constance Porter Uzelac

aviator, was born Elizabeth Coleman in Atlanta, Texas, the daughter of George Coleman, a day laborer of predominantly Indian descent, and Susan (maiden name unknown), an African American domestic and farmworker. While Bessie was still very young, the family moved to Waxahachie, Texas, where they built a three-room house on a quarter-acre of land. She was seven when her father left his family to return to the Indian Territory (Oklahoma). The Coleman household was Baptist, and Bessie was an avid reader who became particularly interested in Booker T. Washington, Harriet Tubman, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. After finishing high school, she studied for one semester at Langston Industrial College, in Langston, Oklahoma.

Between 1912 and 1917 Coleman joined her two brothers in Chicago where she studied manicuring at Burnham s School of Beauty Culture and worked at the White Sox Barber Shop She supplemented her income ...

Article

Elizabeth Hadley Freydberg

Born in Atlanta, Texas Elizabeth Coleman was the twelfth of thirteen children Her mother Susan Coleman was African American Her father George Coleman was three quarters Choctaw Indian and one quarter African While Bessie was still a toddler the Coleman family moved to Waxahachie Texas an agricultural and trade center that produced cotton grain and cattle The town was about thirty miles south of Dallas and was recognized as the cotton capital of the West There the Coleman family made a living from picking cotton George Coleman built a three room house on a quarter acre of land but by the time Bessie was seven years old he had returned to Choctaw country in Oklahoma Susan Coleman continued to raise nine children alone as she also continued to harvest in the fields pick cotton and do domestic work to make ends meet When the children became old enough usually ...

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

Jessica Millward

Black women in early America lived in territory held by the Spanish, the British, the French, and the Dutch. While the presence of African and African American slaves in places such as Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, and even New England is well known, black women also lived in the Spanish colonies, which comprised portions of present-day California, Florida, and New Mexico. Black women also had a formidable presence in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, which is present-day New York, as well as in the French territory of New Orleans. While the overwhelming number of black women in what became the United States lived their entire lives as slaves, some were indentured servants, and some were free persons. Black women traveled with explorers to present-day New Mexico, petitioned their respective colonial governments for freedom, and produced literary works.

The experiences of black women in early America varied depending on whether ...

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

Leigh Fought

The enigmatic first wife of Frederick Douglass, Anna Murray Douglass, has been misunderstood and misrepresented by historians as well as by her husband's associates since he first rose to fame in 1842. Her early life, including her birth and parentage, remain sparsely documented. Most historians agree that she was the daughter of Bambarra and Mary Murray, emancipated slaves from Denton in Caroline County, Maryland. As a young adult she lived in Baltimore, Maryland, working as a housekeeper and laundress in white homes. Despite refusing to demonstrate reading or writing skills throughout her life, she clearly had some interest in self-improvement in her youth because she first met Frederick Douglass, then known as Frederick Bailey, through mutual friends at the East Baltimore Mental Improvement Society, an organization of free blacks who promoted literacy.

The two had met by the late summer of 1838 when Anna sold many of ...

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 ...