Black History Month, February 2005, 2006

with a special focus on African-American women, and women and race

African-American women in history, 2006

"February is Black History Month. This is the 80th anniversary of this focal celebration, which presents a special opportunity to recognize the bold and daring achievements of African Americans. Coretta Scott Kingís passing as well as Rosa Parks passing in October serve as reminders of the unrelenting and courageous work of African American women for social change and justice. Women were passionately involved in the dangerous Abolitionist Movement of 19th Century and women sustained the foundation of the 20th Century Civil Rights Movement. Yet, their pioneering, courageous, and life-changing work is often recorded only as a footnote to history..."

Teaching Black Women's History and Other Stories:
Ruminations of a Young Black Female History Professor

Rhonda Y. Williams, Ph.D.

See our appreciation of Shirley Chisholm
and our report on the occasion of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, 15 January 2005

From Slave Women to Free Women: The National Archives and Black Women's History in the Civil War Era
By Noralee Frankel, 1997

African American Women: 1901-1950
Black women in the earlier 20th century, during a time of great social change. Includes the Harlem Renaissance, World War II, more. On a large resource site ( offering brief profiles and further links on well-known (or should be) women, but many are named and not linked with information.(Much information but some obnoxious sponsors and ads - editor's comment).

The three following links are also from this site:
African American Women: 1951-2000
Women of the Harlem Renaissance

Women in The West: Syllabus for Readings in Western Women's History
from Spring 1993, but still lots of interesting references

Louisiana Black Women: An Ignored History

by Jan Doherty (This paper was selected by the Department of History as the Outstanding Paper for the 1985-1986 academic year.)

"There is an aspect of the history of Louisiana that has been essentially neglected. The role of women, particularly the contributions of the black woman, is all but eliminated in the texts that attempt to outline the achievements of explorer, governor, and merchant in the development of Louisiana. Historian Gerda Lerner notes that "the modern historian is dependent on the availability of sources. The kind of sources collected depends to a large extent on the interests, prejudices and values of the collectors, archivists and historians of an earlier day."

This observation was also made by W. E. B. DuBois in 1951 when he wrote, "We have the record of kings and gentlemen ad nauseam and in stupid detail, but of the common run of human being . . . the world has saved all too little of authentic record and tried to forget or ignore even the little saved."

Such has been the case with the role of women in history. Arthur Schlesinger Sr. wrote in 1922 that "from reading history textbooks one would think half of our population made only a negligible contribution to history." The black woman has been ignored even more; she has been considered historically inferior to the white female in the United States and at the same time a member of an entire family of people that was considered little more than chattel for more than 200 years..."

Black Domestics During the Depression: Workers, Organizers, Social Commentators
By Phyllis Palmer

"... Relief programs in the National Youth Administration (NYA) that trained teenage girls for adult roles mimicked the job options in the adult divisions of the WPA. Even with the advocacy of Mary McLeod Bethune, appointed with Eleanor Roosevelt's blessing to head a Division of Negro Affairs, the NYA sponsored programs that prepared girls for their race-specific, gendered roles. In southern states especially, white girls gained skills as future homemakers and housewives while black girls learned domestic service work. .."

Mobilizing for the vote, but -- Black Women Sent to the Back of the March

Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the journalist who led an anti-lynching campaign beginning in the late 19th century, organized the Alpha Suffrage Club among African American women in Chicago and brought members with her to participate in the 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, D.C.

"Mary Church Terrell organized African American women who lived in and near Washington, D.C. to join the march, although all African American participants were asked to march at the rear of the procession."

Ida Wells-Barnett refused... read the full story

From a biography of Mary Church Terrell:

..."During the late 19th century, numerous local Black women's service clubs were formed. The Black club members found that they could not affiliate themselves with the National Council of Women, the General Federation of Women's clubs, nor could they be represented at the 1893 World's Fair. Inspired by the ability of national clubs to tackle national issues, black women came together to form the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). Mary Church Terrell was the first President of the NACW..."

Ida B. Wells-Barnett

July 16, 1862 -
March 25, 1931
A few books of interest

10 Books Essential for Women's History Month (from the Africana website)

Short reviews with links for a good choice of recent and classic works.

"When and Where I Enter is an eloquent testimonial to the profound influence of African-American women on race and women's movements throughout American history. Drawing on speeches, diaries, letters, and other original documents,Paula Giddings powerfully portrays how black women have transcended racist and sexist attitudes--often confronting white feminists and black male leaders alike--to initiate social and political reform. From the open disregard for the rights of slave women to examples of today's more covert racism and sexism in civil rights and women's organizations, Giddings illuminates the black woman's crusade for equality. In the process, she paints unforgettable portraits of black female leaders, such as anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells, educator and FDR adviser Mary McLeod Bethune, and the heroic civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, among others, who fought both overt and institutionalized oppression."

Publisher: Amistad, 1996

More by Paula Giddings

Sisters in the Struggle: African-American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement.
Collier-Thomas, Bettye and V.P. Franklin, eds.
New York: New York University Press, 2001.

"Sisters in the Struggle presents a detailed analysis of the multifaceted roles played by women in civil rights and Black Power organizations, as well as the major political parties at the local, state, and national levels, while documenting the formation of a distinct black feminist consciousness. It represents the coming of age of African-American womenís history and presents new studies that point the way to future research and analysis."

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