A few years ago my good friend Flora Jane gave me a deck of “knowledge cards” called Women Who Dare from the Library of Congress. I pulled out all the African-American Women to feature for February. Here is the list, alphabetically, and includes some direct quotes from the cards. Photos from Google unless otherwise noted:
1. Josephine Baker (1906-1975): Talented dancer who made her mark in Paris in La Revue Nègre. “She was irreverent and exotic, known for her magnetic stage presence, lush body, deep red lipstick, and outrageous promotional antics, including her famous walk with a leopard dow the Champs Elysèes.” She was also politically active and courageous, spoke against racism, and a memeber of the French Resistance in WWII, earning the Medal of Resustance and the Legion of honor.
Poster found on etsy.com
2. Ida Wells-Burnett (1862-1931): Considered apredecessor for Rosa Parks, she refused to give up her train seat in the white section. She sued and won in court and continued to fight for racial equality with her pen. Becoming a full time journalist in 1891, she threw a “relentless and harsh light on thenational disgrace of lynching.”
3. Bessie Coleman (1892-1926): Bessie was the first African American aviator with the nickname “brave Bessie.” After deciding to take up flying, she found schools would not accept her because of their racial and/or gender restrictions. So she went to Europe and was trained by French & German aviators, obtaining her pilot’s license in 1921 and her international pilot’s license one year later. She became an exhibition pilot back in the USA and spoke on opportunities in aviation. Sadly, she was nearing her goal of opening a flying school for black youth when the controls of her plan jammed. She was thrown from the cockpit and did not survive. She was 34. Below is a photo of the 32 cent stamp commemorating her life.
4. Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977): As a child picking cotton, Fannie Lou became a civil rights activist all her life when she was denied voting rights in Indianola, Mississippi. She found the Mississippi Feredom Democratic Party (MFPD) and in the 1964 Democratic National Convention, the DFPD demanded seating along with the all-white regualr state delegation. Despite permanent damage to her arm and kidneys, Hamer never stopped defying racial discrimination and terror.
NOTE: The next four will be posted in Part Two. Of the 48 cards, only 8 highlight African-American women in America.
Edith Spurlock Sampson
However, I would add the three women from the movie Hidden Figures, as well as Lorraine Hansberry, who wrote Raisin in the Sun which I saw on Braodway with some outstanding African-American actors. This was in the 1970s so I don’t have their names available. But I am sure that Viola Davis and Olivia Spencer wouldbe wonderful in a current version.
Just as there is not enough “press” for women’s accomplishments in America, there is even less press about African American women. In the list above, I only recognized Harriet Tubman, Josephie Baker and Rosa Park. So I have chosen to make this month African American Women’s History Month!
NOTE: Abraham Lincoln’s and George Washington’s birthdays fall in February, but I did not have the timeor inclination to post about them. However, I think because this is African-American Month, we should remember that it was Lincoln who freed the slaves, losing his life, and becoming, to me, a “Prince among Presidents.”