Is there a difference between yesterday and today?

“Every man has a right to express his opinion,” Maria W. Stewart wrote. “Many think, because your skins are tinged with a sable hue, that you are an inferior race of beings … It is not the color of the skin that makes the man, but it is the principle formed within the soul.” 

Maria W. Stewart

Has much really changed between yesterday and today for the African American Woman, the African American people? Has it changed in the political and education arena? Has it changed for you? Are we still a living example of this picture?

After discussing my Black History project with my friend, Yvonne Duskin, she gave me a new and different perspective about the Black History Project for February 2021.

Yvonne is more knowledgeable about the history of African American people than I. I started developing a Black History Project for me and others to learn about our fight, and sacrifice to be acknowledged as a people who can make a worthwhile contribution that befits mankind.

Yvonne made the following observation “Darlene, listen to the words in the message and then look behind those words to hear what is implied by the message. The message to the African American people remains the same, and that is so very sad! If you need an example listen to “let’s make America Great again? You must ask yourself, ‘when’ and ‘why’ and ‘who is conveying the message…”

This years’ project is smaller than usual because of the in-depth research. Due to technical differences, the project will be shared on And He Restoreth My Soul Project and Darlene J. Harris, Speaker Writer.

You will be introduce to women who stepped out as speakers during their time and the website that will help you to do your own research. I’m excited about this years’ project and I hope you enjoy it too.

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Maria W. Stewart, but she was a Black American Woman born 1803. Her and many of contemporaries lived through two wars The war of 1812 and the civil war April 12, 1861 to May 9, 1865.

Maria W. Stewart, a woman of many FIRSTs in her life.

  • First African American woman to lecture about women’s rights, and black women’s rights.
  • First American woman to speak to a mixed audience of men and women, black and white.
  • First known American woman to lecture in public on political issues.
  • First African American woman to make public anti-slavery speeches.

A Brief Historical Account:

She was born Maria Miller, the child of free African-American parents in Hartford, Connecticut. And orphaned by age 5.

In 1826, she married James W. Stewart, taking not only his last name but also his middle initial. James Stewart, a shipping agent, had served in the War of 1812 and had spent some time in England as a prisoner of war.

James W. Stewart died in 1829; the inheritance he left to Maria Stewart was taken from her through long legal action by the White executors of her husband’s will, and she was left without funds.

Stewart became a vocal and militant advocate for “Africa, Freedom and God’s cause”. Maria, is amongst the strong Black Women of her time. Even thought her speaking carrier was brief her writing carrier was life long.

Her Beliefs

Methinks I hear a spiritual interrogation‘Who shall go forward, and take off the reproach that is cast upon the people of color? Shall it be a woman? And my heart made this reply — ‘If it is thy will, be it even so, Lord Jesus!’

Mary W. Stewart

In her speeches, Stewart had often referred to literacy as a sacred quest at a time when it was a crime to teach slaves to read or write.

Marie W. Stewart’s Christian faith strongly influenced Stewart. She often cited Biblical influences and the Holy Spirit, and implicitly critiqued societal failure to educate her and others like her:

“Yet, after all, methinks there are no chains so galling as the chains of ignorance—no fetters so binding as those that bind the soul, and exclude it from the vast field of useful and scientific knowledge. O, had I received the advantages of early education, my ideas would, ere now, have expanded far and wide; but, alas! I possess nothing but moral capability—no teachings but the teachings of the Holy spirit.

Maria W. Stewart

Maria W. Stewart delivered the speech entitled “An Address” to a mixed audience in 1833. It was not received well and it would be her last public address before she embarked on a life of activism. The speech says in part:

Most of our color have been taught to stand in fear of the white man from their earliest infancy, to work as soon as they could walk, and to call “master” before they scarce could lisp the name of mother. Continual fear and laborious servitude have in some degree lessened in us that natural force and energy which belong to man; or else, in defiance of opposition, our men, before this, would have nobly and boldly contended for their rights … give the man of color an equal opportunity with the white from the cradle to manhood, and from manhood to the grave, and you would discover the dignified statesman, the man of science, and the philosopher. But there is no such opportunity for the sons of Africa … 

Marie W. Stewart

Rhana Gittens is Ph.D.


“What If I Am a Woman?”: Black Feminist Rhetorical Strategies of Intersectional Identification and Resistance in Maria Stewart’s Texts

Rhana Gittens is an  Assistant Professor of Communication at Oglethorpe University. Originally from Lauderdale Lakes, Florida she earned her bachelors in journalism and MBA from University of Florida.  She completed her PhD at Georgia State University. She is critical rhetoric and critical cultural studies scholars who researches  identity, public memory, space and place, and media representation. She is currently working on a book focusing on cultural gentrification in the city of Atlanta and rhetoric’s generative power for community and urban development. Her forthcoming article, an exploration of aesthetic communities and the Black Public Sphere in 2Chain’s Pink Trap House will appear in Theory and Events Journal in 2021.  Her essay on Maria W. Stewart’s rhetoric appears in the Southern Communication Journal. Dr. Rhana Gittens is also the author of Perfectly Loved: Knowing Love on God’s Terms. Nyree Press.

Most of the above information about Maria W. Stewart is from this website https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_W._Stewart

Dr. Rhana Gittens https://www.rhanagittens.com/research

E-History Maria W. Stewart https://ehistory.osu.edu/biographies/maria-stewart

Audio of Maria W. Stewart’s writings https://librivox.org/meditations-from-the-pen-by-maria-w-stewart/

Maria W. Stewart.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior

Article about Maria Stewart https://time.com/4643126/maria-stewart-abolitionist/#:~:text=Stewart%20only%20gave%20four%20speeches%2C%20but%20they%20made,people%20and%20women%20were%20illiterate%2C%20uneducated%20and%20ignorant.

Marie W. Stewart “Why Sit Ye Here and Die https://www.blackfacts.com/fact/1832-maria-w-stewart-why-sit-ye-here-and-die

All other 2021 Black History Project will post on https://darlenejharrisspeakerwriter.wordpress.com. To receive an e-mail notification for the project post, please become a follower of the site.

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