NOTE: This is a Part Two of the posting on African-American women in history, using cards from the Library of Congress entitles, Women Who Dare.
Click on this link for Part One:
(Direct quotes are from the cards unless otherwise noted.)
5. Rosa Parks (1913-2005): Rosa Parks is probably the best known 20th century African-American women in this list of eight. She is the woman from Montgomery, Alabama, who refused to move from the “white” section of the bus to the back of the bus. The United States Congress dubbed her “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement” (from Wikipedia). Her arrest following the bus incident on Dec. 1, 1955, led to a mass boycott of the city’s buses and brought Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement to national prominence. “Though indeed a woman of quiet dignity, Parks was also a longtime mover in the Montgomery NAACP and a well-trained, disciplined activist, attuned in every aspect to what she was setting into motion.”
6. Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994): Despite of, or perhaps because of, her childhood polio, Wilma Rudolph moved from “barely being able to walk to become the first female triple Olympic gold medalist in track and field.” Her story of overcoming her physical disability to become an Olympic star is amazing. After a teaching career and serving in several capacities in order to promote wider opportunities for black youth, such as running and the development if female athletes, she established the Wilma Rudolph Foundation, dedicated to training young athletes.
7. Edith Spurlock Sampson (1901-1979): Hailing from Philadelphia, as a child she was determined to get an education and work to relieve in some way the plight of the urban poor around her. “Pursuing a career in law, she became the first black female judge in American. Later, she served as an alternative delegate to the United Nations. As the Library of Congress Knowledge Cards note: (She was)….” A natural in the courtroom (and claimed) “To ‘speak from the heart and let the law take care of itself.'” (Note/Discrepancies: The Internet places Pittsburgh as her home town, but the cards note Philadelphia. Also, some of these entries place her birthdate as 1891.)
I chose this is a photo of Edith because the person she is talking to looks like Eleanor Roosevelt.
8. Harriet Tubman (1820-1913) – While Rosa Parks is probably the most recognizable name of African-American women from the 20th century, I think Harriet Tubman is the best known African-American woman born in the 19th century because of her outstanding role on the Underground Railroad. (A network of abolitionists who helped Blacks escape the South to freedom in the North.) Harriet Tubman had been a fugitive slave herself, but did not stop with her own freedom. She made 19 return trips to rescue approximately 300 slaves from bondage. “During the Civil War she served as a nurse, spy, and scout for groups of readers penetrating Confederate lines.” She continued her remarkable work despite blackouts resulting from being struck on the head with a two-pound weight administered by an overseer when she was a slave. Thus, in her later years, Harriet Tubman “worked for black education and social betterment, woman suffrage, and other causes.”
My personal comments:
I learned a great deal from my research using the Linrary of Congress cards and the Internet, and 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 Broadway 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 would be wonderful in a current version.
From popularmechanics.com, this quoted summary with women’s name in bold as my editing:
“Adapted from Margot Lee Shetterly’s book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, the film focuses on three real-life African-American female pioneers: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, who were part of NASA’s team of human “computers.” This was a group made up of mostly women who calculated by hand the complex equations that allowed space heroes like Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard, and Glenn to travel safely to space. Through sheer tenacity, force of will, and intellect, they ensured their stamp on American history—even if their story has remained obscured from public view until now.”
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 really only recognized Harriet Tubman, Josephine Baker, Wilma Rudolph and Rosa Parks. Even then, I knew very little about their lives, so this was also a history lesson for me! Thus, I have chosen to make this month African-American Women’s History Month!
Also, special thanks to my classmate and friend Flora Jane for gifting the Libraryopf Congress cards to me.