Honoring My Heroines & Voices of Yesterday

If you remember an article I penned titled “My Heroine and My Voice“ it was about my journey of exploring various avenues that would lead me to find my voice as a writer.

In remembrance of Black History Month, and since that article was written I have discovered other African American Women who came through hard times yet, found lifted their voice while leaving a pregnant legacy for you and me.

Sojourner Truth – My Heroine and My Voice

I still feel she invited me into her experience. When I heard her say, “My name is Sojourner Truth.” She motioned to me and said, “Baby, I know what you’re looking for, and I want to give you what I have; the strength in my voice, the courage in my voice and the wisdom to know how and when to use my voice and most of all the willingness to seek God in everything .” I learned all I could about Sojourner Truth. I discovered she was a woman with a voice full of passion, truth, strength, and courage. She was a woman who you would have to reckon with. Her voice was bold, fearless, and powerful. She had the qualities I admired in a woman and a voice I’ve come to love!

Other Women Other Voices

Yet, I’ve also fallen in love with these African American Women of strength, grit, steadfastness, and courage. They fought the same battle at different times, and in different ways, but they were all about equality for the future of African American People men and women boys and girls.  They have earned the right to be celebrated and not just during Black History Month.

There were many African American Men and Women who fought the same battle, but due to time and space, I can only share a few of the Other Women and Their Voices who have inspired me. 

We have to remember we are all playing a critical role in the lives of each other no matter the race, culture, gender. One pastor said “if I want you to hear my story I have to be willing to listen to your story” I believe harmony can come when we bear, humble, and hear the pain and struggles of one another. This will take willingness of heart.

As you read about these African American Women and their accomplishments of yesterday remember the colleges, organizations, business’ started by these women remain in operation today.

Inspiring African American Women

Fanny Jackson Coppin- Fanny Jackson Coppin was born a slave on January 8, 1837, in Washington DC.  Her aunt purchased her freedom at the age of 12. In 1865 Coppin became the Second African-American woman to receive a bachelor’s degree in the United States and was hired as Principal of the Ladies Department at the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheyney University of Pennsylvania). Coppin served as the principal of the Ladies’ Department, teaching Greek, Latin, and math. In 1869 Coppin became the First-African American School principal and held this position for 37 years. In a letter to Frederick Douglass in 1876, Coppin expressed her desire and commitment to educating African-American men and women by saying,

“I feel sometimes like a person to whom in childhood was entrusted some sacred flame…This is the desire to see my race lifted out of the mire of ignorance, weakness, and degradation; no longer to sit in obscure corners and devour the scraps of knowledge which his superiors flung at him. I want to see him crowned with strength and dignity; adorned with the enduring grace of intellectual attainments.”

As a result, she received an additional appointment as the superintendent, becoming the First African-American to hold such a position.

January 21, 1913, Coppin died at her home in Philadelphia. Fanny Jackson Coppin

Mary McLeod Bethune – Mary McLeod Bethune was born Free and the founder of Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute. Currently known as Bethune-Cookman College in FL. This phenomenal woman was the Advisor to President U.S. Presidents Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and became lifelong friends with Eleanor Roosevelt.  Bethune was also appointed as a national adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of what was known as his Black Cabinet. She was known as “The First Lady of The Struggle” because of her commitment to gain better lives for African Americans.

Bethune’s outspokenness caused journalist Ida Tarbell to deem her #10 of America’s most influential women in 1930. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional, Bethune defended the decision by writing in the Chicago Defender that year:

There can be no divided democracy, no class government, no half-free county, under the constitution. Therefore, there can be no discrimination, no segregation, no separation of some citizens from the rights which belong to all…. We are on our way. But these are frontiers which we must conquer…. We must gain full equality in education …in the franchise… in economic opportunity, and full equality in the abundance of life.[30]

A passage from her Last Will and Testament “I leave you love. I leave you hope. I leave you the challenge of developing confidence in one another. I leave you a thirst for education. I leave you a respect for the use of power. I leave you faith. I leave you racial dignity. I leave you a desire to live harmoniously with your fellow men. I leave you a responsibility to our young people.”

Madam C. J. Walker – Madam C. J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove to emancipated slaves. Born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867, on a Delta, Louisiana plantation, this daughter of former slaves transformed herself from an uneducated farm laborer and laundress into one of the twentieth century’s most successful, self-made women entrepreneurs.

Orphaned at age seven, she often said, “I got my start by giving myself a start.” She and her older sister, Louvenia, survived by working in the cotton fields of Delta and nearby Vicksburg, Mississippi. At 14, she married Moses McWilliams to escape abuse from her cruel brother-in-law, Jesse Powell. Madam C.J. Walker

She may have been the first self-made African American millionaire. Born of emancipated slaves. But she never lost sight of who she was and where she came from!

By 1910, and with the new name, Madam C.J. Walker, had accrued a sizable fortune and considerable influence. This daughter of adversity was now well known and respected among the nation’s African Americans as a savvy entrepreneur with a thriving business based on hair-care products sold by nearly 1,000 female sales agents across the country. Harvard Business School Cases Beauty Entrepreneur Madam Walker

Madam Walker July 1912. “I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations….I have built my own factory on my own ground.”Madam J,C, Walker Bio

By her death, according to the Harvard Business School Case, nearly 40,000 African American women had been trained as Walker sales agents. Customers from the United States to Central America and the Caribbean were using Walker beauty products. Harvard Business School Cases Beauty Entrepreneur Madam Walker

Walker died of kidney failure in 1919 at the age of 51 The New York Times marked the day of her death with an obituary titled “Wealthiest Negress Dead.” Harvard Business School Cases Beauty Entrepreneur Madam Walker

Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander- Sadie didn’t let anything stop her and overcame many obstacles as an African American Woman. She is credited with being “the first” in several different accomplishments in African American history.  She was the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in economics in the United States (1921). Sadie was the first woman to receive a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the First African American to hold both a Ph.D. and a J.D. degree. In 1946 Sadie was appointed to the President’s Committee on Civil Rights established by Harry Truman.  Sadie Alexander The Woman of Many Firsts

Alexander was appointed to President Harry Truman’s Committee of Human Rights in 1947. In this position, Alexander helped to develop the concept of a national civil rights policy when she coauthored the report, “To Secure These Rights.”

In the report, Alexander argues that Americans–regardless of gender or race–should be granted the opportunity to improve themselves and in doing so, strengthen the United States. reminding people everywhere that freedoms are won not only by idealism but by persistence and will over a long time…”

Alexander died in 1989 at the age of 91 in Philadelphia.

My Heart, My Writing

I have written this information with a full heart, therefore if there are any errors, misquotes, or incorrect sightings, please charge it to my mind, and not to my heart.

A Sojourner Truth UPDATE: On April 28, 2009, Speaker Pelosi and Members of Congress were joined by First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to unveil a bust by sculptor Artis Lane of Sojourner Truth. The bust is the first sculpture to honor an African American woman in the US Capitol and was donated by the National Congress of Black Women. Learn more about the unveiling.

Source for the above information







Other sits for Sojourner Truth

http://www.hbook.com/1994/01/authors-illustrators/patricia-c-mckissack-and-fredrick-mckissacks-1993-bghb-nf-speech-for-sojourner-truth-aint-i-a-woman/ http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/sojtruth-woman.asp


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