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Article

Charles Rosenberg

college president, activist for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). Born Mary Rice in Harrisonburg, Virginia, she was the acknowledged daughter of confederate general John R. Jones and Malinda Rice, who was hired as a servant in his household at the age of seventeen in 1873. There appears to have been some enduring affection between Jones and Rice. He acknowledged paternity of Mary and her brother William, and his first wife, Sarah, ill and often confined to bed, asked to see the children and gave them presents. Mary Rice was raised in part by John Rice, Malinda's brother, and his wife Dolly. She also spent time in Jones's household, and after Sarah Jones died in 1879 the general bought a house for Malinda and her children The immediate neighborhood was racially mixed ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Nannie Helen Burroughs was born in Orange, Virginia, to John and Jennie Poindexter Burroughs. She later moved with her mother and sister to Washington, D.C. In that district she graduated from the Colored High School in 1896 and took a job at the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, office of the Christian Banner. Burroughs then moved to Louisville, Kentucky, and worked as a bookkeeper and editorial secretary of the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention (NBC). She also organized the Women's Industrial Club there.

At the NBC annual meeting in 1900, Burroughs gave an impassioned speech entitled “How the Sisters Are Hindered from Helping.” She went on to found the Women's Convention, an auxiliary to the NBC, serving as its secretary for forty-eight years, from 1900 to 1948, and as president from 1948 to 1961. In 1907 Burroughs claimed that the Women ...

Article

Connie Park Rice

educator and club woman, was born Coralie Franklin in Lexington, Virginia, a daughter of Albert Franklin and Mary E. (maiden name unknown). During or immediately after the Civil War the family moved to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, where Coralie attended the Normal Department at Storer College, graduating in 1872. She continued her education at Storer and graduated from the Academic Department in 1880. A gifted elocutionist she was described by John Wesley Cromwell, on a visit to Harper's Ferry in 1877, as “an elocutionist of grace, skill and power” (Journal of Negro History, July 1923). Franklin went on to attend Emerson College in Boston, the Shoemaker School of Oratory in Philadelphia, and the Martha's Vineyard Summer Institute of Oratory in Massachusetts. Franklin then returned to West Virginia and her alma mater, where she taught elocution at Storer College from 1882 to 1893 ...

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

Lisa Clayton Robinson

“Only the Black Woman can say ‘when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.’” In this passage from her speech “Womanhood a Vital Element in the Regeneration and Progress of a Race,” published in her 1892 work A Voice From the South: By a Black Woman of the South Anna Julia Cooper expresses one of her most important beliefs In her writings and speeches Cooper often argued that the status of the entire black race was dependent on the status of the women who run the homes and raise the children and that one of the best ways to elevate black women s status was to increase their educational opportunities As an activist and educator she spent most of her life simultaneously promoting these ideas and putting ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Of her college experience, Frances (Fanny) Jackson Coppin remembered: “I never rose to recite in my classes at Oberlin but I felt that I had the honor of the whole African race upon my shoulders. I felt that, should I fail, it would be ascribed to the fact that I was colored.” This describes a burden that many blacks still carry 150 years later—the suspicion that for their white peers, they somehow represent the entire race. Despite this pressure, however, Coppin shone at Oberlin College in Ohio, and she went on to shine as a teacher, school principal, and activist throughout the next fifty years.

Coppin was born a slave in Washington, D.C. the daughter of a slave mother and a white father An aunt purchased Coppin s freedom when she was twelve years old and sent her to live with another aunt in New Bedford Massachusetts They moved ...

Article

Brandi Hughes

nurse, foreign missionary, and school founder, was born to Anna L. Delaney and Daniel Sharpe Delaney in Fernandina Beach, Florida. Emma Beard Delaney came of age in the postbellum generation that witnessed the collapse of Reconstruction and the fading of the early promise of African American emancipation. Against the rising tide of segregation and racial violence, however, Delaney's family managed to sustain a measure of economic security and educational advancement. Her father, Daniel, held the distinction of being the only African American helmsman commissioned for service on the Revenue Cutter Boutwell, a federal ship that patrolled the ports of Savannah, Georgia; Jacksonville, Florida; and Charleston, South Carolina, as a forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard. The unique benefits of her father's government employment enabled the Delaney family to support an expansive education for Emma and her sister, Annie. In 1889 shortly after completing secondary classes ...

Article

Dolores Leffall

Juliette Derricotte was born in Athens, Georgia, on April 1, 1897, the fifth child of Isaac Thomas and Laura (Hardwick) Derricotte, and attended the public schools of Athens until 1914. In 1918 she graduated from Talladega College, Talladega, Alabama, and received her M.A. degree in religious education from Columbia University in New York in 1927.

Derricotte learned early the disadvantage of being black. She wanted desperately to attend the exclusive Lucy Cobb Institute located in her hometown. She voiced her desire to her mother, only to be told that she could not attend this school because it did not accept black students. This incident was a factor in her efforts to reduce racial discrimination.

At Talladega College Derricotte was active in campus and community activities especially as a representative of the Young Women s Christian Association YWCA in visiting numerous colleges In many speeches she ...

Article

Michelle D. Commander

educator and civic activist, was born Mary Elizabeth Garvin in Charleston, South Carolina. Her parents, George Washington Garvin, a carpenter, and Rebecca Mary Logan Bellinger, a seamstress, had seven other children, four of whom died in childhood. As a young girl, Fields was enthralled with learning new ideas, and she began attending Shaw School in her neighborhood when she was just three years old. Her mother's side of the family, particularly the Middleton branch, was regarded as middle class, and many of her relatives were formally educated beyond high school in preparation for professional careers. Fields and her siblings were encouraged by their parents to attend Avery Institute, a private school renowned for the excellent education that it offered middle- and upper-class African American youth. While Herbert, Harriet, and Ruth accepted their parents prodding a defiant Mamie refused to be educated at a school ...

Article

Kelly J. Baker

Abby Kelley was born in Pelham, Massachusetts, to parents of Irish-Quaker descent. She graduated from a Friends' school in Rhode Island in 1829 and became a teacher. In 1836 she moved to Lynn, Massachusetts, for a teaching position. While in Lynn, Kelley became involved with the Lynn Female Society, an antislavery organization for women. She quickly gained positions as secretary and eventually as director of the organization. Kelley became involved in the abolitionist cause, and William Lloyd Garrison's attacks on slavery in particular impressed her. After hearing her speak at an antislavery meeting, Garrison and Theodore Dwight Weld encouraged Kelley to join the antislavery cause as a lecturer; in 1839 she left teaching to join the lecture circuit It is possible that she was the first woman after the Grimké sisters to speak before mixed audiences Kelley was scorned and mocked by many of her audiences ...

Article

Rayford W. Logan

Born in Queens County, Long Island, New York, Garnet was the first of eleven children of Sylvanus and Annie (Springfield) Smith, both of mixed Native American and black ancestry. Her parents were landholders and successful farmers. During her childhood there were public schools in New York City, but there seem to have been none on Long Island. For that reason Sarah received her early education from her paternal grandmother, Sylvia Hobbs. At the age of fourteen Sarah began studying in and around New York City at normal schools (training schools for teachers), the first of which was established about 1853. She taught in an African Free School established by the Manumission Society in Williamsburgh, which later became a part of Brooklyn. On April 30, 1863, Garnet became the first black woman to be appointed principal in the New York public school system. Violinist Walter ...

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

Olivia A. Scriven

feminist scholar and educator, was born Beverly Lynn Guy in Memphis, Tennessee. The oldest of three daughters, Beverly was raised in a traditional African American extended-family household. Her mother, Ernestine Varnado Guy, separated from husband, Walter P. Guy Jr., when Beverly was eleven and moved with the children to live with Beverly's stay-at-home grandmother and her Baptist-minister grandfather. Hard work, education, independence, and self-reliance were central principles in the Guy household. “Every tub sits on its own bottom,” Beverly recalls being told by her mother. She supported the three girls by working as a public school math teacher and later as an accountant at two black colleges. Beverly credits her mother with developing her earliest sense of “feminist consciousness,” often urging Beverly and her sisters Francine and Carmella to respect the dignity of all women that irrespective of marriage a woman should always have resources or ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Born to former slaves in Lowndes County, Alabama, Elizabeth Ross Haynes became a pioneering urban sociologist. Haynes graduated valedictorian of the State Normal School (now Alabama State University) in 1900. She received an A.B. from Fisk University in 1903, and later received an M.A. in sociology from Columbia University in 1923.

After graduation from Fisk, Haynes taught school and worked for segregated branches of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). In 1910, she married George Haynes, a sociologist and cofounder of the National Urban League; their son was born in 1912. After her marriage, Haynes continued to work in unsalaried positions.

From 1918 to 1922, Haynes worked for the U.S. Department of Labor, and from 1920 to 1922 she served as domestic service secretary for the U S Employment Service Throughout her career Haynes was especially concerned with black women ...

Article

Nicole Sealey

intellectual, feminist, educator, cultural critic, social activist, and poet, was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, to Veodis Watkins, a custodian, and Rosa Bell Watkins, a housekeeper. One of seven children, hooks grew up in a poor family in which poetry was a well-respected art form. On stormy nights the Watkins family would host talent shows in their living room. As a youth, hooks would recite poems by such authors as Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson. By the age of ten, hooks was already writing and reading her own work.

Hooks attended Booker T. Washington Elementary, a segregated black school. Her teachers, mostly single black women, nurtured and fostered her young mind. With the integration of public schools in the 1960s, however, black students were bused to white schools. Hooks soon learned that the white teachers at Crispus Attucks ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

Cited in Booklist as a “formidable feminist social and cultural critic,” bell hooks is widely known for her pioneering and provocative scholarship on racism and sexism in the United States. A prolific essayist and the author of nearly twenty books, she has written on a range of issues, including feminist politics and the representation of race in Film, Television, and advertising.

In a 1995 interview with Carl Posey of Essence magazine, hooks affirmed that “fundamentally, my life is committed to revolutionary Black liberation struggle, and I don't ever see Black liberation and feminism as being separate.” She has criticized both white, middle-class feminists and black liberation activists for neglecting women of color, and has encouraged African American women to “claim a critique of sexism” based on the black experience. Seeing class divisions among blacks as a principal obstacle to racial justice, she wrote, in her 1996 book Killing Rage ...

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

Eric Gardner

writer and educator, was born in Alexandria, Virginia, to Daniel W. and Mary (sometimes listed as Margaret) Jane (Lewis) Gibson. Her father, who had been born in Virginia, and her mother, who had been born in the District of Columbia, were free African Americans who moved to the Cincinnati area in 1849 with their three children. Daniel Gibson worked as a barber and a porter in the years before the Civil War and was able to keep his growing family on the edges of the tiny black middle class in Cincinnati. In his Noted Negro Woman entry on Sarah Gibson, Monroe Majors wrote that her father was a man of unusual strength of intellect and will self reliant and well read and that her mother was a quiet and practical woman gentle firm and efficient pp 138 139 Sarah Gibson studied in a range of private ...

Article

As a child, Susan Maria Smith McKinney-Steward trained and performed as an organist. Her early training qualified her for teaching positions, and she taught school in Washington, D.C., and New York City, using the proceeds of her New York teaching to pay tuition for medical school.

McKinney-Steward began medical study at the New York Medical College for Women in 1867. She specialized in homeopathic medicine and graduated as class valedictorian after three years. After receiving her degree she achieved wealth and a local reputation as a successful Brooklyn physician with an interracial clientele. McKinney-Steward excelled especially in pediatric care and the treatment of childhood diseases. Outside her medical practice she agitated for social reform, advocating female suffrage and temperance. Until the early 1890s she remained the organist for the African Methodist Episcopal church where she regularly worshiped.

Both of McKinney Steward s husbands were ministers She was ...

Article

Caryn E. Neumann

the granddaughter of slaves who became the first African American elected to Congress from Florida since Reconstruction, grew up as one of twelve children born to the sharecropper William Pittman and the domestic worker Carrie Pittman in Tallahassee, Florida. Meek grew up in the shadow of the Capitol in a neighborhood called the Bottom and attended Primitive Baptist churches. A gifted track and field athlete, she graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology and physical education from Florida A&M University in 1946. Unable to attend graduate school in Florida because African Americans were not permitted to do so, she went to the University of Michigan and earned a master's degree in public health and physical education in 1948 Meek returned to her home state to work as a physical education instructor at Miami Dade Community College She would ultimately spend more than forty years at the school as ...