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Mandisa Mbali

antiapartheid, gay rights, AIDS, and human rights activist, was born in Johannesburg in South Africa. Adurrazack (“Zackie”) Achmat was of Cape Malay heritage. His father, Suleiman Achmat, was a member of the South African Communist Party and his mother, Mymoena, was a trade union shop steward. Achmat’s entry into politics began at the age of 14 with his participation in the 1976 student uprising. He was detained in 1977 for burning down his high school in Salt River to demonstrate his support for the uprising. Achmat obtained a bachelor of arts honors degree in English literature from the University of the Western Cape in 1992.

He spent much of the period between 1976 and 1980 in detention for his opposition to the apartheid system. It was also in this period that Achmat read the then-banned works of Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky and the progressive academic journal Work in ...

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In the long tradition of American social activism the influence of the sisters Grimké looms large Natives of South Carolina Sarah Grimké and the younger Angelina Grimké Weld were among their country s earliest proponents of equal rights for all Americans as well as for that most cherished of liberal institutions the universal adult franchise They were also fierce abolitionists a position that frequently earned them the derision of male observers not a few of whom were their fellows in the fight against the institution of slavery who reckoned such political posturing unfit for women of good breeding The sisters also dared to shine a light on the rape of female slaves and had the temerity to suggest a sisterhood among women of all colors again to the outraged brays of Southern slaveholders and Northern abolitionists alike Too early for their time the convictions and beliefs of the sisters Grimké ...

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The day-to-day trade of human beings involved the brutal practice of separating mothers from their children. Though there were some laws to protect the rights of slave women, the usual practice was to sell mothers with their infants together. However, as the advertisement below indicates, a child who had reached the age of six was already regarded as old enough to be bought separately. This post, it should be noted, is found in the Pennsylvania Gazette, a Philadelphia-based newspaper cofounded by Benjamin Franklin.

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

Baqi<ayn>e Bedawi Muhammad

Sudanese intellectual, educator, political leader, and women’s advocate, was born on 1 January 1932 in the city of El Obeid, Province of Kordofan, and raised by an Islamic family. Her grandfather, al-Shaykh Mohammed al-Badawi, was a prominent Islamic scholar, and his house in Omdurman was a gathering place for well-known Islamic scholars from North Africa, such as al-Shaykh Mohammed Abdu of Egypt. Al-Badawi’s father, al-Fatih Mohammed al-Badawi, was a district commissioner who replaced the position of the British officer after Sudan independence in 1956. Although girls’ formal education was boycotted by the masses for being based on Western values, he was an open-minded and progressive individual with liberal ideas regarding girls’ education. In this atmosphere al-Badawi and her two sisters were raised.

As a district commissioner al Badawi s father s moved and worked in different regions of Sudan This situation compelled al Badawi to receive her elementary intermediate ...

Article

John Garst

the inspiration for the “Frankie and Johnny” song, was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents were Cedric Baker and his wife Margaret (maiden name unknown), and she had three brothers: Charles, Arthur, and James. Charles, who was younger than Frankie, lived with her on Targee Street in 1900. In 1899 Baker shot and killed her seventeen-year-old “mack” (pimp), Allen “Al” Britt. St. Louis pianists and singers were soon thumping and belting out what would become one of America's most famous folk ballads and popular songs, “Frankie and Johnny,” also known as “Frankie and Albert,” “Frankie Baker,” and “Frankie.”

At age sixteen or seventeen Baker fell in love with a man who, unknown to her, was living off the earnings of a prostitute (this kind of man was known as an “easy rider,” a term made famous by W. C. Handy in his ...

Article

The black women's movement in Latin America and the Caribbean has been deeply marked by the region's political, social, and cultural diversity. The countries of this region share a common past of colonial rule maintained during four centuries on the basis of exterminating large indigenous populations and enslaving an estimated 10 to 15 million Africans.

Black women have played a key role in the history of their peoples and in the history of Latin America and the Caribbean. Throughout the colonial period until the present, they have preserved African values. Black women have been responsible for the survival and re-creation of African cultures and religious practices. These cultures and practices have offered different models of life and death, the feminine and the masculine, nature, and divinity. Black women also fought against slavery.

After the abolition of slavery the great majority of black women remained domestic workers and farm workers This ...

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

Mecca Jamilah Sullivan

Black queer feminism is a set of approaches to thought, expression, and political action that critiques structures of racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, and several other forms of oppression. The term “black queer feminism” expands existing modes of feminism and queer/LGBTQIA + activism (activism by and for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual people, as well as others who experience structural gender and sexual oppression) by highlighting the connections between racial, gender, and heterosexist oppression. It also expands on some popular understandings of “black feminism” by placing the voices and political lives of black queer and LGBTQIA + people at the center of black feminist movements both past and present.

One of the key ways black feminism makes these critiques is through an intersectional approach a framework for understanding the political and social world that centers the inseparability of oppressive structures such as racism sexism classism and heterosexism homophobia The term ...

Article

Marquis Bey

Black trans lives have always been an important subject matter, but only recently has the topic gained public attention. In 2014Time magazine featured black trans woman and actress Laverne Cox in a story entitled The Transgender Tipping Point which helped to bring the lives of black trans people into the spotlight in full force for the first time But long before Cox black people of trans experience have been struggling living dying and making cultural history in the liminal spaces of the social scene They have been at the forefront of activism and have been subjected to a distinctive form of violence that has indelibly shaped the United States Being both black and trans creates a particular life experience that forces one to navigate space and time with the knowledge of how they are seen how they see themselves and what might happen because of the many perceptions ...

Article

Francesca Gamber

civil rights and gay rights advocate, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Bill Boykin, a bus driver and salesman, and Shirley, a federal employee. Shortly after the birth of his sister Krystal in 1966, the family moved from inner-city St. Louis to the predominantly white suburb of Florissant, Missouri. As he grew up, Boykin displayed an interest in politics, becoming student body president in the fifth grade and dreaming of the White House.

Boykin's parents separated when he was in elementary school, and both left the St. Louis area in 1980. Boykin moved with his father and sister to Clearwater, Florida, where his father opened a black beauty-supply business. Boykin attended Countryside High School, where as a senior he was elected student government president, and graduated in 1983 He enrolled in Dartmouth College in Hanover New Hampshire that fall and joined the track team and ...

Article

Barbara Bair

writer, educator, and feminist, was born Adelaide Smith on 27 June 1868 in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Of mixed Hausa, Fanti, West Indian, and British heritage, she was born into the social world of the Creole professional elite, the daughter of court registrar William Smith and his second wife, Anne. Adelaide Smith moved with her family to England at the age of four (in 1872), and grew to adulthood in Britain. She was educated at the Jersey Ladies’ College, which her father had helped to found. The leaders of the school served as role models for the young Adelaide, who carried the message of female ability she learned at the college into her own adult life. The experience also influenced her lifelong dedication to education as a medium of social change for African women and girls.

Adelaide studied music in Germany for two years before her family s financial circumstances ...

Article

Aomar Boum

Moroccan women’s rights activist, was born in Casablanca on 14 August 1941. An alternate form of her name is Aïcha Ech-Chenna. She spent her childhood in Marrakesh. She lost her father at the age of three and was thereafter raised by her mother. She also lost her sister at a young age. With no male figure in the family, her uncle and some of her father’s friends raised her and supported her upbringing. She returned to Casablanca in 1953 to continue her studies in French at the Foch School and the Lycée Joffre. Before she joined the state nursing school, she began her career as a medical secretary, working in a leprosy program. Later, in 1958, she worked for a lab that specialized in tuberculosis. In 1960 she passed the nursing school entrance exam and began her training receiving a civil service stipend to support herself and ...

Article

Agnes Leslie

first Botswana female to serve as a cabinet minister and member of parliament in Botswana, was born in Serowe, when Botswana was called the Bechuanaland Protectorate. She was the daughter of Moruti Tibe Chiepe and S. T. Chiepe (née Sebina). Her father died when she started primary school. Her father’s cousins wanted her to leave school and get married, but her mother insisted that she stay in school. Chiepe attributes her success to her mother’s determination to see her educated. She attended Serowe primary school near her home, finishing in the late 1930s with high honors She was the best student in the country and was offered a scholarship to study at Tiger Kloof Post Secondary School near Vryburg in the Cape Colony South Africa Chiepe was one of the first girls to attend the school which was three hours from her home The scholarship lessened the financial pressure ...

Primary Source

The Combahee River Collective Statement, penned in 1977, is considered one of the foundational documents in the articulation of identity politics and is a key document in the history of African American lesbians. The Combahee River Collective was formed in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1974 and was active until 1980. The collective—named for the river where Harriet Tubman led over 750 slaves to freedom—was a group of black feminist activists who, when faced with discrimination within various other activist groups and liberty movements, came together to form a group that met their own political goals. “A combined antiracist and antisexist position drew us together initially, and as we developed politically we addressed ourselves to heterosexism and economic oppression under capitalism.” Over the years, members of the group included Barbara Smith, Cheryl Clarke, Gloria Hull, Audre Lorde, and Demita Frazier, among a variety of others.

The collective came together at a time ...

Article

Elizabeth Ammons

Anna Julia Haywood Cooper was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of a slave, Hannah Stanley Haywood, and her white master, George Washington Haywood, with whom neither she nor her mother maintained any ties. At age nine she received a scholarship to attend the St. Augustine's Normal School and Collegiate Institute for newly freed slaves, and in 1877 she married an instructor at the school, a Bahamian-born Greek teacher named George Cooper. Left a widow in 1879, she never remarried. She enrolled in 1881 at Oberlin College, where educator and activist Mary Church (later Terrell) also studied, and elected to take the “Gentleman's Course,” rather than the program designed for women. She received her bachelor's degree in 1884 and after teaching for a year at Wilberforce University and then returning briefly to teach at St Augustine s she went back to Oberlin to ...

Article

LaRay Denzer

first woman mayor of the Sierra Leonean capital of Freetown, was born into a prominent old Krio (then spelled Creole) family on 7 January 1918 in Freetown. Young Constance grew up in a household deeply involved in local politics and culture. Her parents were Johnnie William Horton, sometime city treasurer, and Regina Elizabeth (Awoonor-Wilson) Horton, a granddaughter of a recaptive from Keta, Gold Coast (now Ghana). Constance was the youngest of their three children, all girls, but she also had two half brothers, one of whom was Asadata Dafora, who won acclaim in the 1930s for introducing African dance drama to the New York theater. Her paternal family traced its ancestry back to James Beale Horton (1835–1883), better known as Africanus Horton, the son of an Igbo recaptive who was influential in the British colonial service and the outspoken author of West African Countries and Peoples (1868 ...

Article

Richard A. Bradshaw

prime minister (1974–1976) of the Central African Republic (CAR), prominent business leader, and women’s rights activist, was born in Bangui, then in the territory of Ubangi-Shari in French Equatorial Africa, in 1925. She belonged to the Mbaka (Ngbaka) ethnic group from the Lobaye region in southwestern CAR. Although she attended elementary school, she never became proficient in French and so almost always spoke in the CAR’s national language, Sango, in which she delivered impassioned speeches at political rallies. Domitien married the European owner of a coffee plantation, and after he passed away, she married Jean Baka, a mayor in the Lobaye region. She became a wealthy businesswoman who owned plantations and conducted commerce in cloth and agricultural products. In the early 1950s she joined the Mouvement d Évolution Sociale d Afrique Noire MESAN Movement for the Social Evolution of Black Africa and supported Barthélemy Boganda and President David ...

Article

James Kilgore

Zimbabwean freedom fighter and politician, grew up in a politically minded family. Her father, a bricklayer, was frequently detained by the white minority government, and Dongo recalled visiting him in prison when she was just seven years old. At fifteen she left secondary school and walked two hundred miles to Mozambique to join the freedom fighters of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU, later ZANU-PF, for “Patriotic Front”). ZANU was conducting a liberation war against the colonial regime led by Ian Smith, leader of Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe). Dongo trained as a medical assistant. She took the Chimurenga (“liberation war”) name of “Tichaona Muhondo” (“We shall see on the battlefield”).

At independence in 1980 she returned to Zimbabwe, completed a typing course, and worked as the Secretary for Women’s Affairs in the national headquarters of ZANU-PF in Harare. In 1983 she took a position in the Ministry of State Security ...

Article

Inge Mariëtte Ruigrok

Angolan women’s activist and development expert, was born Henda Ducados Pinto de Andrade on 14 July 1964 in Rabat, Morocco. Her father, Mário Pinto de Andrade, was based there as the coordinator of the Conference of the Nationalist Organizations from the Portuguese Colonies (CONCP), an organization focused on enabling cooperation among the national liberation movements in Lusophone Africa. Her mother, Sarah Maldoror, was a French-born filmmaker of Guadeloupean origin. The couple also had a younger daughter, Annouchka de Andrade.

In 1966 the family moved to Algiers Algeria where the Front de Libération Nationale FLN National Liberation Front had become an important ally to the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola MPLA People s Movement for the Liberation of Angola of which Mário Pinto de Andrade was a leader and founder Algerian President Ben Bella had given a residence to her father on Avenue Abdel Kader in Bab el Oued ...