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This biography appears in African American Women Chemists (Oxford University Press, 2011), by Dr. Jeannette Brown.

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Ella Josephine Baker (1903–1986) was a grassroots activist who helped to found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), after having already worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for several years. Among the SNCC’s major accomplishments were the 1961 Freedom Rides and numerous initiatives to register African Americans to vote. The speech below is taken from a voter registration drive in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where Baker was introduced by fellow activist Dr. Aaron Henry (1922–1997). Her message in this excerpt demonstrates her commitment to making the civil rights movement more democratic—specifically, Baker often criticized civil rights organizations for being dominated by men. In this address, she playfully chastises Henry for suggesting that her involvement in the movement is a mere “fling,” and later calls out another leader who prematurely declares the movement to be nearing its completion.

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In March 2010 Shirley Sherrod b 1948 the Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture USDA delivered a speech before the state chapter of the NAACP What was supposed to be an inspirational address detailing Sherrod s rise to prominence and years of service instead became the fodder for a racially charged partisan debate that played out in the national news media In the speech reproduced below Sherrod frankly discusses her painful childhood in Georgia When Sherrod was a teenager her father was murdered by a white man who was never prosecuted for his crime The event compelled Sherrod to commit herself to combating the racial inequalities in the Jim Crow South At the same time she admitts to harboring a deep distrust of white people When I made that commitment she states I was making that commitment to black people and to black ...

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Although she had achieved a comfortable middle-class standing unknown to the vast majority of her generation, black Bostoner Maria W. Stewart vigorously rejected complacency, becoming a pariah of sorts as she demanded the end of slavery and opportunities for advancement—quite uncommonly—to audiences black and white, male and female. Stewart was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1803 and brought into indentured servitude at the age of five; after her servitude expired, she moved to Boston, where she spent her early adult years working as a domestic servant. Obtaining an education was difficult, and what little formal learning Stewart acquired came from Sunday school instruction.

Her fortune changed significantly after she married James W Stewart a successful much older merchant at age twenty three With time finally at her disposal Stewart was able to dedicate herself to cultivating her intellect and devising a political philosophy Perhaps most importantly Stewart s entry into ...

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 ...

Primary Source

This biography appears in African American Women Chemists (Oxford University Press, 2011), by Dr. Jeannette Brown.

Article

Charles Rosenberg

activist, lawyer, and the first woman of color to be admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court (active in women's clubs and the Chicago Urban League), was born Violette Neatley in London, England, to Marie Jordi Neatley, a thirty-two-year-old German-Swiss woman, and Richard E. Neatley (sometimes spelled Neatly), a thirty-four-year-old Jamaican of African descent. She moved with her parents to America in 1885, settling in Chicago, where her father worked as a day laborer. Violette Neatley graduated from North Division High School in 1899, leaving her parents' apartment on Wells Street in North Town to marry Amos Preston Blackwell. They remained in North Town, at 473 Park Avenue. Her husband worked as a valet and in 1900 informed the census which recorded him as black that he was born in Canada as were his parents However a divorced man of the same name ...

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Few luminaries of the antislavery, pro-suffrage movement can be said to have raised as many hackles (or as much righteous hell) as the magnificent sisters Grimké, Sarah and Angelina. Born in the early years of the nineteenth century to a prominent judge (and slaveholder) the Grimké sisters went on to blaze a trail through the national debates over the slavery question and the rights of women. Their attention to questions of such national importance was not, to say the least, publicly welcomed. Angelina Grimké's 1836 Appeal to the Christian Women of the South a scriptural attack on the evils inherent in the peculiar institution made her a celebrity in the North a reviled figure in the South Such was her fame that in 1837 she became the first woman invited to address the state legislature of Massachusetts However soon Grimké married the redoubtable Theodore Weld and thus came an ...

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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 ...

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Angelina Emily Grimké (later Weld) was the daughter of a prominent judge and slaveholder in South Carolina. As a result of her firsthand experience with the “peculiar institution,” she became active in the antislavery cause. In 1835 Grimké made her public debut when William Lloyd Garrison published (without her permission) a letter she wrote to him. Seemingly motivated rather than cowed by the criticism that resulted from the publication of this letter, Grimké published Appeal to the Christian Women of the South the following year. The pamphlet caused an uproar throughout the South. In the North it brought her to the attention of antislavery advocates.

Soon Grimké and her equally radical sister Sarah were lecturing on the subject throughout New England They faced opposition ridicule and threats for breaking out of the woman s sphere to speak in front of mixed audiences male and female At the same time their ...

Article

Steven B. Jacobson and William A. Jacobson

sprinter, was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, the eldest of five children of Samuel Ashford, a non-commissioned U.S. Air Force officer, and Vietta Ashford, a homemaker. Because of her father's service assignments, the family lived a nomadic lifestyle before settling in Roseville, California, where Ashford was the only girl on Roseville High's boys track team. She earned her spot by beating the school's fastest boys. Ashford's precocious world-class speed was obvious by her senior year, when she recorded times of 11.5 and 24.2 seconds, respectively, in the 100 and 200 meter dashes.

Ashford entered UCLA in September 1975 with an athletic scholarship. She soon qualified for the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada, and there, at nineteen, she qualified for the finals and was the top U.S. finisher in the 100 meters, finishing fifth in 11.24 seconds. Ashford was a collegiate all-American in 1977 and 1978 She ...

Article

Janice Sumler-Edmond

During the fall of 2000, the Association of Black Women Historians (ABWH) published an anthology to celebrate its twentieth year as an organization, dedicated to promoting black women in the profession and to promoting the history of black women. The book, Black Women’s History at the Intersection of Knowledge and Power, co-edited by Rosalyn Terborg-Penn and Janice Sumler-Edmond, contains twelve scholarly essays authored by ABWH members and honors the memory of Dorothy Porter Wesley (1905-1995) and Lorraine Anderson Williams (1923-1996), two pioneering African American educators, scholars, and mentors. The association’s anniversary celebration also featured a day-long symposium held in September 2001 at the Mary McLeod Bethune Counsel House-National Historic site in Washington, DC. The symposium featured research presentations by black women scholars.

In keeping with ABWH s founding and mission these anniversary celebrations reflected the ABWH constitution and four organizational goals to establish ...

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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 ...

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Among depictions of American bondage, the slave narrative is undoubtedly the most poignant chronicle of the privations of involuntary servitude; this explains why The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is assigned reading for millions of American schoolchildren and college students every year. What is unique about Martha Griffith Browne’s Autobiography of a Female Slave—published anonymously at its first printing—is that Browne was not a former slave, but a white woman. In fact, as the daughter of slaveholding Kentuckians, Browne’s inheritance included six slaves. Nonetheless, she became an abolitionist and moved to Philadelphia. Autobiography was written to raise money for freeing her slaves and Browne approached the novel with such a verisimilitude that it was frequently cited as a work of nonfiction Although it sold poorly Browne s book is according to the University of Mississippi Press which republished it in 1998 the only pseudo slave narrative ...

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.

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Henry McNeal Turner 1834 1915 a prominent bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church AME became attracted by the idea of black Americans returning to Africa at a time when the civil rights gains of the Reconstruction Era were slowly being chipped away replaced with Jim Crow policies that would continue for almost a century Turner had lived an active life before his appointment as bishop in 1880 After serving as a pastor in several communities he became a chaplain in the Civil War and participated in nine battles Following the war he organized for the Republican Party and was elected to the Georgia state legislature When the Democrats voted to expel all black members Turner responded with a powerful speech on the floor of the legislature rebuking the racist decision Although Congress restored the seats Turner lost the election of 1870 due to rampant voter fraud by his opponents ...

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Lois Bellamy

voice teacher, mezzo-soprano, pianist, educator, was one of four children born to Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker and Elizabeth Baytop Baker in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Her father's parents were slaves. Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker was born a slave on 11 August 1860 and worked on the farm until he was twenty-one years old. He was one of five children and was the first African American to earn and receive a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University in 1906. In 1890 he received a B.A. from Boston University and a Bachelor's in Divinity from Yale University and studied psychology and philosophy from 1896 to 1900 at Yale Graduate School. He was minister of the Dixwell Congregational Church in New Haven, Connecticut, from 1896 to 1900. He was listed in Who's Who in New England, 1908–1909 and his writings paved the way for the Harlem Renaissance era ...

Primary Source

This biography appears in African American Women Chemists (Oxford University Press, 2011), by Dr. Jeannette Brown.

Article

Joshunda Sanders

media mogul, model, and actress, was born Tyra Lynne Banks and grew up in Inglewood, California. Her father, Donald Banks, was a computer consultant, and her mother, Carolyn London, was a medical photographer and business manager. The couple divorced when Tyra was six years old, in 1980.

Banks attended Immaculate Heart Middle and High School, an all-girl's private school. She credited her mother's photography business and friends' encouragement with her ability to overcome a self-consciousness during her awkward adolescence that almost made her pursue another path.

“I grew three inches and lost 40 pounds in 90 days,” she told the Black Collegian in an interview about her teen years. “It was just this crazy growth spurt. I felt like a freak: people would stare at me in the grocery store.”

A friend encouraged her to try modeling during her senior year At the time several ...

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Kristal Brent Zook

journalist and historian of the early West, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the eldest of five children of Daniel Beasley, an engineer, and Margaret (Heines) Beasley, a homemaker. Although little is known about her childhood, at the age of twelve Beasley published her first writings in the black-owned newspaper, the Cleveland Gazette. By the time she was fifteen she was working as a columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, becoming the first African American woman to write for a mainstream newspaper on a regular basis.

Beasley lost both parents as a teenager and was forced to take a full-time job working as a domestic laborer for the family of a white judge named Hagan. Her career then took several unusual turns as Beasley, who was described by biographer Lorraine Crouchett as short well proportioned and speaking in a shrill light voice perhaps because of a chronic hearing ...