Contrary to popular belief, the first black woman to grace the cover of Vogue wasn’t Naomi Campbell; it was Donyale Luna.
In the early 20th century, women weren’t supposed to be loud or assertive. That was even more true for women of color - but that didn’t stop Savannah teacher, writer, and organizer Rebecca Stiles Taylor. Here's her story, as we focus on Forgotten Women in Savannah history. It’s tough to assign a label or title to Rebecca Stiles Taylor. "She had been a very successful teacher and social worker who had been in all of the black neighborhoods of Savannah," says Hugh Golson, a retired history teacher and a cousin of Stiles Taylor. "And she had a statewide and national reach through her work with the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs." She also founded several such clubs in Savannah, and wrote for the popular national newspaper The Chicago Defender. It’s a lot for one person. Golson traces all that work back to what she learned at Atlanta University. "They picked up the mission to educate everyone of color," he says. "They gave them a mission, almost like a preacher in the pulpit or a missionary on his ship going to a foreign shore. They were to go back. They were to cleanse, protect, and educate the lesser of all the children in their cities and communities." By all accounts, Stiles Taylor was a woman on a mission. Mary Edith Stiles described her aunt in a video for the Georgia Women of Achievement program. "She was talented, she was smart, she was aggressive," says Stiles. "She knew what she wanted and she knew exactly how to get it, even if it did seem she was demanding and aggressive." What she wanted - and how she got it - ran the gamut: from working overtime to educate poor students, to becoming the first African American woman to serve as Savannah’s Probation Officer in Juvenile Court. In her newspaper column, she took early stands on big civil rights issues, like segregation in the military and poll taxes. She even lobbied the president in 1918 after a lynching in Valdosta. "It was pure savagery," says Golson. "And these black women of color are bristling over this, and they send a strong letter to President Wilson, and her name is front and center at the bottom: Rebecca Stiles Taylor." Stiles was a prominent name in Georgia. President Wilson grew up in Augusta, and Hugh Golson believes her name caught the president’s attention. "He did write up a scathing rebuke in the federal register, which was probably a pretty strong step for this man who had segregated the bathrooms of federal agencies when he took office," Golson says. Great-niece Sandra Stiles Thomas says her aunt was known for that kind of gutsy action. "I remember Aunt Rebecca, and I remember how strong an image she was," Thomas recalls. "A lot of people were afraid of Aunt Rebecca, because she didn’t play." Rebecca Stiles Taylor died in 1958. But her family remains prominent in Savannah - pastors, teachers, leaders of charity groups. Thomas says that’s in part thanks to Stiles Taylor, who she calls an elder of the family. "Aunt
In a historic win tonight, the law professor in firmly in charge of the TV class. For her role in ABC’s freshman How To Get Away With Murder, Viola Davis has become the first African-American to win the Emmy for Outstanding lead actress in a drama. Having already won a SAG Award for her performance as defense lawyer and university law prof Annalise Keating on the Shonda Rhimes EP’d series created by Peter Nowalk, Davis had previously been nominated for a Golden Globe for the role. “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone is opportunity,” said an emotional Davis as she thanked Shonda Rhimes, Oscar winner Halle Berry plus fellow nominee Taraji P. Henson. Tonight’s telecast already saw wins by Orange Is The New Black‘s Udo Aduba and American Crime‘s Regina King. In a category that also saw Henson a racial barrier-breaking contender for her Empire role, the win for the two-time Oscar nominated Davis comes just days before HTGAWM begins its second season on ABC on Thursday nights along with fellow Shondaland shows Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. Among the other nominees in the category in the 67th Emmys were multiple past winner Claire Danes of Homeland and two-time before nominee Robin Wright of House of Cards. Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss and Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany, who won the Critic’s Choice award in 2013 and finally got an Emmy nomination this year, were also in the category.
Although Serena had a surprising loss knocking her out of the US Open Sunday, we are still very proud of her. There is no denying her talent on the court. If she never wins another match, Serena Williams has accomplished the highest of accolades, she has become an ICON. She's a symbol of tenacity, strength, fierceness, and beauty. As a black woman, she inhabits my qualities. She represents us each time she steps on the court, or on the red carpet, or even the runway! Following the upset, ESPN played a videopic put together as a gift from her sister Venus and narrated by Oprah. In this video, Oprah Winfrey examines Serena Williams' career and her 21 major titles. This piece made my heart beam, even playing it several days later. Each time I see it, I am empowered and reminded that I can take on the world. I am Serena. We are Serena. We are champions. Check it out below and let me know in the comments how it made you feel.
Long before the phrase “Black is beautiful” gained currency in the 1960s, Mrs. DeVore-Mitchell was preaching that ethos by example. In New York in the 1940s — an age when modeling schools, and modeling jobs, were overwhelmingly closed to blacks — she helped start the Grace del Marco Modeling Agency and later founded the Ophelia DeVore School of Self-Development and Modeling. The enterprises, which served minorities, endured for six decades. The success of the agency, and the visibility of the school’s thousands of graduates, helped pave the way for the careers of contemporary black supermodels like Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks. As an agent, Mrs. DeVore-Mitchell represented members of the first wave of black models to attain wide visibility at midcentury, among them Helen Williams, often described as the first black supermodel. She also represented a young model named Richard Roundtree before he went on to fame as an actor in “Shaft” and other movies. As a charm-school director, Mrs. DeVore-Mitchell taught dress, diction and deportment to thousands of students, including the future actress Diahann Carroll, the future television newswomen Sue Simmons and Melba Tolliver, and the future hip-hop artist Faith Evans. Besides tending to her pupils outwardly through classes like Wardrobe I, II and III; Social Graces; and Figure Control With Fencing and Ballet, Mrs. DeVore-Mitchell designed a curriculum to bolster them inwardly, offering a counterweight to the tradition of internalized self-hatred that was many black Americans’ legacy. “Black has always been beautiful,” Mrs. DeVore-Mitchell once said. “But you had to hide it to be a model.” In the late 1930s, when Mrs. DeVore-Mitchell began her career as one of the first black models in the United States, she found work partly by hiding her own heritage. But in her case, the hiding was done entirely through inadvertence. Emma Ophelia DeVore was born on Aug. 12, 1921, in Edgefield, S.C., one of 10 children of John Walter DeVore, a building contractor, and the former Mary Emma Strother, a schoolteacher. As a girl, Mrs. DeVore-Mitchell, whose family was of African, Cherokee, French and German descent, was educated in segregated Southern schools; she received additional instruction “in dancing, piano and all the other things in the arts that parents gave you to make you a lady,” as she told Ebony magazine in 2012. At 11, to further her education, she was sent to live with an aunt in New York. She graduated from Hunter College High School in Manhattan and went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, with a minor in languages, including French, Latin and German, from New York University. A beauty with wide-set eyes, Ophelia DeVore had begun modeling casually as a teenager. A few years later, seeking professional training, she enrolled in the Vogue School of Modeling in New York. It was only toward the end of her studies there, when the school refused admission to another black candidate, that she realized it had mistaken her, with her light skin, for white. “I didn’t know that they didn’t know,” Mrs. DeVore-Mitchell said in the Ebony interview. “I thought they
People often cite Arthur Ashe as the first African American to win Wimbledon (1975). He was indeed the first African American male to win the men's singles title, but it was, in fact, Althea Gibson, who was the first African American to cross the color line playing and winning at Wimbledon (1957 and 1958) and at the U.S. Nationals (1957 and 1958 – precursor of the U.S. Open). This fall, THIRTEEN's American Masters presents Althea, premiering nationwide Friday, September 4, 2015 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) during the U.S. Open. The 90-minute documentary reveals the highs and lows of this remarkable athlete whose life and achievements transcend sports and have entered the annals of African American history. From her roots as a sharecropper's daughter in the cotton fields of South Carolina, to her emergence as the unlikely queen of the highly segregated tennis world in the 1950s, her story is a complex tale of race, class and gender. In recounting Gibson's story, the filmmakers were meticulous in finding period imagery, including over 450 vintage photographs. Producer and director Rex Miller weaves this archival visual material and interviews with those who knew Gibson, such as former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, Wimbledon champions Dick Savitt and Billie Jean King (who also serves as one of the film's executive producers), Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, widow of Arthur Ashe, and more. Gibson was born in Silver, South Carolina on August 25, 1927. At the age of three, her father moved the family north migrating to Harlem in 1930. Gibson was a tomboy who grew up loving sports, but disliked school so much that she started skipping classes at the age of 12 and, by 18, had dropped out of high school. She played basketball, but "…paddle tennis started it all," says Gibson, in a clip from a 1984 interview. She learned to play that sport on the streets, but it was bandleader Buddy Walker, who was also the neighborhood play street director, who introduced her to tennis and The Cosmopolitan Club, a private black tennis club. At the club, she met Fred Johnson, the one-armed coach, who taught her how to play. Under the auspices of the American Tennis Association (ATA), an organization of African American players, she began to develop as a tennis player. It was during this time that she met boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, who would become a friend and mentor. Though a talented tennis player, Gibson was a street kid who lacked the genteel manner associated with the sport. It was under the tutelage of Dr.Hubert Eaton of Wilmington, NC and Dr. Robert W. Johnson of Lynchburg, VA, two African American physicians who loved tennis and helped young African Americans who wanted to play, that she flourished. She honed her skill, while receiving lessons in etiquette and the social graces, traveled and played in the segregated south, and even earned her high school degree. Her success in tennis earned her an athletic scholarship (basketball and tennis) to Florida A&M, where she received a BA in 1955 at
courtesy of Bio Michele Roberts rose from a childhood in a Bronx public-housing development to attend the UC Berkeley School of Law. She began her legal career as a public defender, eventually becoming a litigation partner for several top firms. In 2014, Roberts became the first female union leader in major North American professional sports when she was elected executive director of the NBA Players Association. Upon joining the Washington D.C. Public Defender Service in 1980, Roberts immediately distinguished herself as a formidable litigator with a knack for persuading juries. "She had a really folksy way of getting along with people who were total strangers," recalled Charles Ogletree Jr., an early supervisor who became a Harvard Law School professor. "She was like the thirteenth juror." After ascending to chief of the trial division, Roberts left the Public Defender Service in 1988 to open her own practice. She continued to work with low-income individuals, but also became involved in high-profile cases. She joined Anita Hill's legal team during the confirmation hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991, and later earned exoneration for Charles Bakaly, a Kenneth Starr aide charged with leaking confidential documents during the President Clinton-Monica Lewinsky investigation. "I don’t live my life saying, 'What ceiling am I going to crack tomorrow?' What I have done, and what I tell my nieces to do, is not to worry about whether you’re the only one, but worry about whether you’re the best one." In 2001, Roberts officially entered the world of white-collar litigation when she joined the Washington D.C. law firm of Shea & Gardner. She became a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in 2004, and then Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in 2011, earning accolades from such publications as Washingtonian magazine and Legal Times along the way. NBA Union Director After reading about the dismissal of Billy Hunter as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association in 2013, Roberts contacted the search firm hired to secure his replacement. Although she had no experience in labor relations or sports, she was convinced that she was the one to help the union. "I plan to be the best executive director in the history of this union. But I'm proud of it. And I’m proud of the players for being 'bold enough' to give a girl a chance." The NBA players, who had approximately 300 candidates to choose from, also became convinced after Roberts explained how she would handle her responsibilities. "Being the executive director of a players union means understanding what the members want, what the members need, and helping them get there," she said. In July 2014, Roberts was elected the NBPA executive director, making her the first female union leader of the four major professional sports leagues in North America. Her history-making moment out of the way, she continued forging relationships with NBA players and Commissioner Adam Silver in preparation for new collective bargaining talks.
It is important that we know our history told from our people. In the coming months you will hear about Assata Shakur. The media has already begun bringing up her name now that the US and Cuba's relations have become friendly. They have painted her as a criminal, a felon, a radical, a terrorist. When in reality, her story sounds no different than that of Mike Brown, Sandra Bland, and the countless others we have lost just recently. Read her story in her words and decide for yourself. We have to arm ourselves with the history of our people in our own words. courtesy of Assata Shakur My name is Assata (she who struggles) Olugbala (for the people) Shakur (the thankful one), and I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government's policy towards people of color. I am an ex political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984. I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI's COINTELPRO program. because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it "greatest threat to the internal security of the country" and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists. Political Prisoner to Exiled On May 2, 1973 I, along with Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata Acoli were stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike, supposedly for a "faulty tail light."Sundiata Acoli got out of the car to determine why we were stopped. Zaydand I remained in the car. State trooper Harper then came to the car, opened the door and began to question us. Because we were black, and riding in a car with Vermont license plates, he claimed he became "suspicious." He then drew his gun, pointed it at us, and told us to put our hands up in the air, in front of us, where he could see them. I complied and in a split second, there was a sound that came from outside the car, there was a sudden movement, and I was shot once with my arms held up in the air, and then once again from the back. Zayd Malik Shakur was later killed, trooper Werner Forester was killed, and even though trooper Harper admitted that he shot and killed Zayd Malik Shakur, under the New Jersey felony murder law, I was charged with killing both Zayd Malik Shakur, who was my closest friend and comrade, and charged in the death
On January 29, 1951, Lacks went to Johns Hopkins Hospital because she felt a "knot" inside of her. She had told her cousins about the "knot"; they assumed correctly that she was pregnant. But after giving birth to her fifth child, Joseph, Henrietta started bleeding abnormally and profusely. Her local doctor tested her for syphilis, which came back negative, and referred her to Johns Hopkins. Johns Hopkins was their only choice for a hospital since it was the only one near them that treated black patients. Howard W. Jones, her new doctor, examined Henrietta and the lump in her cervix. He cut off a small part of the tumor and sent it to the pathology lab. Soon after, Lacks was told she had a malignant epidermoid carcinoma of the cervix. Following Otto Gey's death in 1970, colleagues writing a tribute discovered that Lacks' cancer had been misdiagnosed and was actually an adenocarcinoma of the cervix. This was a common mistake at the time and the treatment would not have differed. Lacks was treated with radium tube inserts, which were sewn in place. After several days in place, the tubes were removed and she was discharged from Johns Hopkins with instructions to return for X-ray treatments as a follow-up. During her radiation treatments for the tumor, two samples of Henrietta's cervix were removed—a healthy part and a cancerous part—without her permission. The cells from her cervix were given to Dr. George Otto Gey. These cells would eventually become the HeLa immortal cell line, a commonly used cell line in biomedical research. In significant pain and without improvement, Lacks returned to Hopkins on August 8 for a treatment session, but asked to be admitted. She remained at the hospital until the day of her death. She received treatment and blood transfusions, but died of uremic poisoning on October 4, 1951, at the age of 31. A subsequent partial autopsy showed that the cancer had metastasized throughout her entire body. Lacks Town Road in Clover, Virginia—along which Lacks grew up and near where she is buried Lacks was buried without a tombstone in a family cemetery in Lackstown, a part of Clover in Halifax County, Virginia. Her exact burial location is not known, although the family believes it is within feet of her mother's gravesite. Lackstown is the name of the land that has been held by the (black) Lacks family since they received it from the (white) Lacks family, who had owned the ancestors of the black Lackses when slavery was legal. Many members of the black Lacks family were also descended from the white Lacks family. For decades, Henrietta Lacks' mother had the only tombstone of the five graves in the family cemetery in Lackstown, and Henrietta's own grave was unmarked. In 2010, however, Dr. Roland Pattillo of the Morehouse School of Medicine donated a headstone for Lacks after reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The headstone, which is shaped like a book, reads: Henrietta Lacks, August 01, 1920-October 04, 1951. In loving memory of a phenomenal woman, wife
It is beyond important for us to recognize those from our past as well as those that are making marks today to be named in future history. Let us continue to teach our young girls of the greatness they have come from, have become, and can be. Born on May 21, 1959, in Greensboro, North Carolina, Loretta Lynch went on to earn her degree from Harvard Law School. She worked as a litigator for a private law firm before becoming a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney's office in New York's Eastern District, eventually making news as a senior prosecutor for the infamous 1997 Abner Louima police-brutality case. She served as U.S. attorney under the administrations of presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and in 2014 was nominated by President Obama to be U.S. attorney general, succeeding Eric Holder. After a long delay, in April 2015 she was confirmed and sworn in, thus becoming the first African-American woman to hold the position. Background and Education Loretta Elizabeth Lynch was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, to librarian Lorine Harris Lynch and Baptist pastor Lorenzo Lynch. Coming from a household that was directly involved in the Civil Rights Movement, the young Lynch went on to attend Harvard College, earning her bachelor’s in literature in 1981, and then opted to stay on with the university, graduating from Harvard Law School in 1984. Career in New York Eventually moving to New York, Lynch worked as a litigator at the firm Cahill, Gordon & Reindel from the mid-1980s until 1990. It was that year that she took on a governmental position, working as prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney team of New York’s Eastern District. In 1994 she became chief of the Long Island Office, and after several years was appointed top assistant to U.S. Attorney Zachary Carter. High-Profile Cases and Posts In 1999, Lynch served as one of the senior prosecutors in the high-profile case of Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant who was beaten and sodomized after being taken into police custody in Brooklyn. Coordinating strategies that included surprise testimony from police witnesses, Lynch and her team were able to secure a conviction for officer Justin Volpe. The formidable prosecutor would then be appointed twice to the post of U.S. attorney for New York's Eastern District under two Democratic leaders: The first appointment came in 1999 from President Bill Clinton. After she returned to private practice in 2002, this time as a partner at Hogan & Hartson LLP, she returned to the U.S. attorney seat in 2010 under President Barack Obama. She later became chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys, and in 2014 coordinated another high-profile investigation, that of Staten Island Congressperson Michael Grimm, who would plead guilty to felony tax evasion and resign.
Known as the “Grandmother of the American Civil Rights Movement,” Septima Poinsette Clark was an educator and civil rights activist who played a major role in the voting rights of African-Americans. In 1920, while serving as an educator in Charleston, Clark worked with the NAACP to gather petitions allowing blacks to serve as principals in Charleston schools. Their signed petitions resulted in the first black principal in Charleston. Clark also worked tirelessly to teach literacy to black adults. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter awarded her a Living Legacy Award in 1979. Her second autobiography, Ready from Within: Septima Clark and the Civil Rights Movement, won the American Book Award.
courtesy of New York Daily News An astonishing new documentary on the singer Nina Simone opens with a scene of the star staring into space. She’s onstage, at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1976, about to begin a pivotal comeback performance. The thunderous applause that greeted her when she walked on stage has died down. And then... nothing. The singer looks around judgmentally, fidgets and broods, letting an uncomfortably long silence linger before announcing that she’ll never play a jazz festival again, vowing to move “to a higher plane.” It’s a squirm-inducing moment, which makes you wonder: Who is this difficult and intense woman? Over the next 110 minutes of Liz Garbus’ film, “What Happened, Miss Simone?,” we discover a lot about who Nina Simone was — a troubled, angry, scary soul who also happened to be one of the greatest musicians and singers of the last century. “What Happened,” which opens in theaters Wednesday, then hits Netflix Friday, draws on archival interviews with the star, her family and colleagues, along with priceless performance footage of the singer, who died in 2003 at age 70. Together, it tells a tale that’s at once rousing and disturbing. Born Eunice Waymon in the segregated North Carolina of 1933, the woman who became Nina Simone was a child prodigy pianist. At 12, she performed her first recital. Two white women were in attendance — Nina’s mom served as their maid — and they took an interest. The women had the youngster practicing eight hours a day, with the goal of making her the first black woman to play Carnegie Hall. Yet she was rejected by the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, due to her race, she believed. To make money, she wound up playing pop, jazz and R&B in a dive bar in Atlantic City under the name Nina Simone so her family wouldn’t feel, and share, her shame. The owner of the bar insisted she both sing and style herself as a soul star, though classical music was her passion. However selfish the club owner’s motives, he inadvertently gave the world an incredible gift. Simone became one of the most distinct, engaged and ruthless singers of all time. With her deep pitch and formidable character, she had a masculine energy, shielding a great vulnerability. Her rich vibrato resonated with equal parts righteousness and hurt. A crushing version she cut of “I Loves You Porgy” became a Top 20 hit but she had trouble sustaining her popularity, for both internal and external reasons. She had a defiance that put people off. If that quality hurt her career, it could result in righteous art. One of her first self-penned numbers, “Mississippi Goddam” reacted with unflinching bravery to the violent racism of the South in the '60s. As the decade heated up, however, Simone’s politics became more violent. “Are you ready to smash white things,” she asks an audience in the late ’60s. “Are you ready to kill?” Both her extremism, and her inner turmoil, gave her performances an alarming honesty. She was uncommonly present in her
Taraji P. Henson became the first black woman to win a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Actress in a Drama on Sunday evening at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Hollywood. Her role as “Cookie Lyon” on Fox’s runaway hit Empire has spawned massive fanfare and will probably secure her more awards in the future. “Thank you, Fox. You’re bold, you took a shot, you took a risk,” she said during her Sunday evening acceptance speech. “This just means that I’m touching lives, and thats why I got into acting.” Watch Taraji’s acceptance speech below: This historic win sets the stage for Henson’s potential forthcoming Best Actress Emmy nominiation — of which she remarked last week in a Los Angeles Press Conference, “I gotta win! I gotta win for history!” That win, should it happen, would make Henson the first African-American woman to snag the honor. If the show’s popularity and Cookie Lion’s tenacity is any measure, more historic firsts are in the actress’s future.
Daisy Bates was born on November 11, 1914, in Huttig, Arkansas. She married journalist Christopher Bates and they operated a weekly African-American newspaper, the Arkansas State Press. Bates became president of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP and played a crucial role in the fight against segregation. In 1952, she headed the Arkansas branch of the NAACP and helped in the desegregation of schools in Little Rock. She documented in her book The Long Shadow of Little Rock: A Memoir. She died in 1999.
Mary McLeod Bethune was a racial justice activist who sought to improve educational opportunities for African-Americans. She is best known for starting a school for African-American students in Daytona Beach, Florida, that eventually became Bethune-Cookman University. She also served as both president of the National Association of Colored Women and founder of the National Council of Negro Women.
Ella Baker began her involvement with the NAACP in 1940. She worked as a field secretary and then served as director of branches from 1943 until 1946. In 1957, Baker moved to Atlanta to help organize Martin Luther King's new organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). She also ran a voter registration campaign called the Crusade for Citizenship. On February 1, 1960, a group of black college students from North Carolina A&T University refused to leave a Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina where they had been denied service. Baker left the SCLC after the Greensboro sit-ins. She wanted to assist the new student activists because she viewed young, emerging activists as a resource and an asset to the movement. Miss Baker organized a meeting at Shaw University for the student leaders of the sit-ins in April 1960. From that meeting, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee -- SNCC -- was born.
Amelia Boynton was born on August 18, 1911, in Savannah, Georgia. Her early activism included holding black voter registration drives in Selma, Alabama, from the 1930s through the '50s. In 1964, she became both the first African-American woman and the first female Democratic candidate to run for a seat in Congress from Alabama. That same year, she marched on Bloody Sunday. In 1990, Boynton won the Martin Luther King Jr. Medal of Freedom. Today, she tours on behalf of the Schiller Institute. In 1930, she met her co-worker, Dallas County extension agent Samuel Boynton. The two had in common their impassioned desire to better the lives of African-American members of their community, particularly sharecroppers. The couple married in 1936 and went on to have two sons, Bill Jr. and Bruce Carver. Over the next three decades, Amelia and Samuel collectively worked toward achieving voting, property and education rights for the poor African Americans of Alabama's farm country. Boynton's early activism included co-founding the Dallas County Voters League in 1933, and holding African-American voter registration drives in Selma from the 1930s through the '50s. Even Samuel's death in 1963 did not deter Amelia's commitment to improving the lives of African Americans. Civil Rights Movement In 1964, as the Civil Rights Movement was picking up speed, Amelia Boynton ran on the Democratic ticket for a seat in Congress from Alabama—becoming the first African-American woman to do so, as well as the first woman to run as a Democratic candidate for Congress in Alabama. Although she didn't win her seat, Boynton earned 10 percent of vote. Also in 1964, Boynton and fellow civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. teamed up toward their common goals. At the time, Boynton figured largely as an activist in Selma. Still dedicated to securing suffrage for African Americans, she asked Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to come to Selma and help promote the cause. King eagerly accepted. Soon after, he and the SCLC set up their headquarters at Boynton's Selma home. There, they planned the Selma to Montgomery March of March 7, 1965. Some 600 protesters arrived to participate in the event, which would come to be known as "Bloody Sunday." On the Edmund Pettus Bridge, over the Alabama River in Selma, marchers were attacked by policemen with tear gas and billy clubs. Seventeen protesters were sent to the hospital, including Boynton, who had been beaten unconscious. A newspaper photo of Boynton lying bloody and beaten drew national attention to the cause. Bloody Sunday prompted President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965, with Boynton attending as the landmark event's guest of honor. Boynton remarried in 1969, to a musician named Bob W. Billups. He died unexpectedly in a boating accident in 1973.
Mildred Loving was a Civil Rights activist in the 1960s. She and her husband successfully defeated Virginia's ban on interracial marriage. Mildred Delores Jeter was born on July 22, 1939, in Central Point, Virginia. The shy, somewhat soft-spoken woman became a reluctant activist in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s when she and her husband, Richard Loving, successfully challenged Virginia's ban on interracial marriage. Mildred Loving was partially African American and Native American. Throughout her life, she referred to herself as Indian rather than black. Mildred's family had deep roots in the area around Central Point, Virginia, where blacks and whites mixed freely with little racial tension even at the height of the Jim Crow era. As a girl, Mildred was so skinny, she was nicknamed "Bean." She was just 11 years old and attending an all-black school when she first met Richard Loving, a 17-year-old white high school student. Quietly, the two fell in love and began dating and when Mildred became pregnant at the age of 18, the two decided to get married. Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924 (known as an anti-miscegenation law) barred the Lovings from marrying in their home state, so the couple drove 90 miles north to Washington, D.C. to tie the knot and then returned to their home in Caroline County, Virginia. They'd been married just a few weeks when, in the early morning hours of July 11, 1958, the county sheriff and two deputies, acting on an anonymous tip that the Lovings were in violation of the law, stormed into the couple's bedroom. Richard ended up spending a night in jail, the pregnant Mildred several more, and the couple eventually pleaded guilty to violating the Virginia law, which recognized citizens as "pure white" only if they could claim white lineage all the way back to 1684. "Almighty God created the races white, white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents," presiding Judge Leon M. Bazile ruled. “And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix." The Lovings' one-year sentences were suspended, but the plea bargain came with a price: The couple was ordered to leave the state and not return together for 25 years. The Lovings followed orders. They paid their court fees, relocated to Washington, D.C., had three children, and only rarely made separate return visits to Virginia to see friends and family. But by 1963, the Lovings decided they'd had enough. The Civil Rights movement was blossoming into real change in America and with a sense, perhaps, that this new era might lead the Lovings back to their old life in Virginia, Mildred wrote Attorney General Robert Kennedy to ask for his assistance. Kennedy wrote back and referred the Lovings to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which accepted the couple’s case. On June 12, 1967, the high court agreed unanimously in favor of the Lovings, striking down
Washington (AFP) - The US Navy has promoted a woman to the rank of a four-star admiral for the first time in its 238-year history, a milestone for females in the American military. In a ceremony on Tuesday, Michelle Howard was promoted to vice chief of naval operations, the number two job in the service, after having already shattered barriers in previous posts in the navy. Howard, 54, is known for commanding a counter-piracy task force in the Gulf of Aden that oversaw the 2009 rescue of a commercial cargo ship skipper, Captain Richard Phillips, who was abducted by Somali pirates. The rescue involving Navy SEALs was later depicted in a film starring Tom Hanks. "If you don’t believe today was a first, when I called to order four-star shoulder boards for women, they didn't exist," Howard said during her promotion ceremony. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Howard had earned her promotion through "a brilliant naval career" and hailed it as "an historic first." View gallery US Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus promotes Michelle Howard to the rank of admiral, the first woman … "She will bear the burden of a role model and she is ready to bear that very well," said Navy chief Admiral Jonathan Greenert. Howard has blazed a trail since graduating from the Naval Academy in 1982. She was the first African-American woman to command an American naval ship in 1999, taking the helm of the USS Rushmore, a dock landing vessel that transports amphibious vehicles. Although she is the first female four-star admiral in the navy, the US Army and Air Force already have had women serve as four-star officers. The promotion follows a recent decision by commanders to open up submarines to female officers and allow women to perform some combat jobs that were previously closed to female ground troops. View gallery Adm. Michelle Howard, center, smiles as Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, left, and Wayne Cowles, How … Since 1993, women have been allowed to serve on warships and fly fighter jets. Howard was one of a small number of women who attended the US Naval Academy in the early 1980s. But women made up 25 percent of this year's graduating class at the academy, an all-time high. The promotion ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery's Women in Military Service for America memorial.
Claudette Colvin (born September 5, 1939) is a pioneer of the African-American civil rights movement. In 1955, she was the first person arrested for resisting bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, preceding the better known Rosa Parks incident by nine months. She was among the five women originally included in the federal court case, filed on February 1, 1956 as Browder v. Gayle (1956), and testified before the three-judge panel that heard the case in the United States District Court. On June 13, 1956, the judges determined that the state and local laws requiring bus segregation in Alabama were unconstitutional. The case went to the United States Supreme Court, which upheld their ruling on December 17, 1956. Three days later, the Supreme Court issued an order to Montgomery and the state to end bus segregation in Alabama. For a long time, Montgomery's black leaders did not publicize Colvin's pioneering effort because she was a teenager and became pregnant while unmarried. Given the social norms of the time and her youth, the NAACP leaders worried about using her to represent their movement.
Bunnatine (Bunny) H. Greenhouse is a former chief contracting officer Senior Executive Service (Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting (PARC)) of the United States Army Corps of Engineers. On June 27, 2005, she testified to a Congressional panel, alleging specific instances of waste, fraud, and other abuses and irregularities by Halliburton with regard to its operations in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. She described one of the Halliburton contracts (secret, no-bid contracts awarded to Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR)—a subsidiary of Halliburton) as "the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career". A long-time government employee, Greenhouse was hired by Lieutenant General Joe Ballard in 1997 to oversee contracts at the Army Corps of Engineers. After Ballard retired in 2000, Greenhouse's performance reviews, which had been exemplary throughout her public career, suddenly soured. Greenhouse filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint alleging race and gender discrimination, which her attorney states has never been investigated. In August 2005, she was demoted in what her lawyer called an "obvious reprisal" for her revelations about the Halliburton contracts. Bunnatine Greenhouse stood alone in opposing the approval of a highly improper muti-billion dollar no bid contract to Halliburton for the reconstruction of Iraq. In retaliation for her courage she was removed from her position as the highest-ranking civilian contracting official at the Army Corps of Engineers. On July 25, 2011, The U.S. District Court in Washington, DC approved awarding Greenhouse $970,000 in full restitution of lost wages, compensatory damages and attorney fees.
In 1951, a 16 year old black high school girl in Prince Edward County, Virginia, led her classmates in a strike to protest the substandard conditions at Robert Russa Moton High School. Enlisting NAACP lawyers Spotswood Robinson and Oliver Hill to her cause, the lawyers filed suit at the federal courthouse in Richmond, Virginia demanding using the Moton High School case to end segregated schools in Virginia. They lost. In their appeal the lawyers incorporated the Moton case with three other similar suits that became known as Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka. Today, Moton High School, the scene of Barbara Johns' walkout, is a historic landmark and civil rights museum.
Born in Putnam, GA, Alice Walker is best known as the writer of the critically acclaimed novel, "The Color Purple". Her writings have become a part of American History. Walker's first book of poetry was written while she was a senior at Sarah Lawrence. She took a brief sabbatical from writing while working in Mississippi in the civil rights movement. Walker resumed her writing career when she joined Ms. magazine as an editor before moving to northern California in the late 1970s. Her 1975 article "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston", published in Ms. magazine, helped revive interest in the work of Zora Neale Hurston, who inspired Walker's writing and subject matter. In 1973, Walker and fellow Hurston scholar Charlotte D. Hunt discovered Hurston's unmarked grave in Ft. Pierce, Florida. The women collaborated to buy a modest headstone for the gravesite. In addition to her collected short stories and poetry, Walker's first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, was published in 1970. In 1976, Walker's second novel, Meridian, was published. The novel dealt with activist workers in the South during the civil rights movement, and closely paralleled some of Walker's own experiences. In 1982, Walker published what has become her best-known work, the novel The Color Purple. About a young troubled black woman fighting her way through not only racist white culture but also patriarchal black culture, it was a resounding commercial success. The book became a bestseller and was subsequently adapted into a critically acclaimed 1985 movie as well as a 2005 Broadway musical.
Maggie Lena Walker was born on July 15, 1864, in Richmond, Virginia. She attended the Lancester School and later Richmond Colored Normal School. Both of the schools she attended were revolved around the education and advancement of African Americans. She graduated in 1883, and had finished her training as a schoolteacher. Maggie married Armstead Walker Jr. A brick contractor. Although the couple was deeply in love, the school Maggie taught at frowned upon teacher’s being married. Having that rule had a hold on Maggie’s neck and it raised a lot of tension in the Walker household. What would you choose your dream or the love of your life? Well Maggie chose love and quickly quit her teaching job but that was not the end of this woman. She packed her bags and became an energetic member of the Independent Order of St. Luke; it was an organization that dedicated their time to the social and financial advancement of African Americans. Later in 1899 Maggie became the grand secretary at the organization. There she had also founded the organizations newspaper and opened a successful bank and department store, she turned bankruptcy into profit. Maggie left this world on December 15, 1934. This woman may not be talked about much in history but she has made a great contribution for her community. Thank you Ms. Walker for your strength brilliance and inspiration for us future writers and business owners!
Daisy Bates was born on November 11, 1914, in Huttig, Arkansas. She married journalist Christopher Bates and they operated a weekly African-American newspaper, the Arkansas State Press. Bates became president of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP and played a crucial role in the fight against segregation, which she documented in her book The Long Shadow of Little Rock. Bates was raised by Orle and Susie Smith, whom she believed to be her birth parents for many years. In "The Death of my Mother," Bates recounted learning as a child that her birth mother had been murdered by three local white men. Her father left the family shortly after her mother's death and left her in the care of his closest friend, L.C. Bates, an insurance salesman who had also worked on newspapers in the South and West. L. C. dated her for several years, and they married in 1942, living in Little Rock. The Bateses decided to act on a dream of theirs, the ownership of a newspaper. They leased a printing plant that belonged to a church publication and inaugurated the Arkansas State Press. The first issue appeared on May 9, 1941. The paper became an avid voice for civil rights even before a nationally recognized movement had emerged. The Bateses' involvement in the Little Rock Crisis resulted in the loss of much advertising revenue to their newspaper, and it was forced to close in 1959. In 1960, Daisy Bates moved to New York City and wrote her memoir, The Long Shadow of Little Rock, which won a 1988 National Book Award.
Nannie Helen Burroughs Nannie Helen Burroughs was born in Orange, Virginia in 1883 to parents John and Jennie Burroughs. Young Burroughs attended school in Washington, D.C. and then moved to Kentucky where she attended Eckstein-Norton University and eventually received an honorary M.A. degree in 1907. Despite the absence of a college degree, Burroughs sought a teaching position in Washington, D.C. When she did not receive it, she moved to Philadelphia and became associate editor of The Christian Banner, a Baptist newspaper. Burroughs returned to Washington, D.C. where, despite receiving a high rating on the civil service exam, she was refused a position in the public school system. Burroughs took a series of temporary jobs including office building janitor and bookkeeper for a small manufacturing firm, hoping to eventually become a teacher in Washington, D.C. She then accepted a position in Louisville as secretary of the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention. In 1907 Burroughs, supported by the National Baptist Convention, began planning the National Trade and Professional School for Women and Girls in Washington, D.C. The school opened in 1909 with 26-year-old Burroughs as its first president. Burroughs adopted the motto “We specialize in the wholly impossible” for the school, which taught courses on the high school and junior college level. She led her small faculty in training students through a curriculum that emphasized both vocational and professional skills. Her students were to become self-sufficient wage earners and “expert homemakers.” Unlike most of her contemporaries, Burroughs believed that industrial and classical education were compatible. She also became an early advocate of African American history, requiring each of her students to pass that course before graduation. Burroughs was a demanding principal. According to observers, she was such a purist that she was physically pained when she encountered grammatical errors made by her students. Nannie Helen Burroughs never married. She devoted her life to the National Trade and Professional School for Women and Girls and remained its principal until her death in 1961. Three years later the institution she founded was renamed the Nannie Burroughs School.
Bessie Coleman Bessie Coleman was the first black woman to earn a pilot's license. Because flying schools in the United States denied her entry, she taught herself French and moved to France, earning her license from France's well-known Caudron Brother's School of Aviation in just seven months. Coleman specialized in stunt flying and parachuting, earning a living barnstorming and performing aerial tricks. She remains a pioneer of women in the field of aviation. Life was not easy for her, moving from Atlanta, TX to the South side of Chicago only fueled her desire to "amount to something. Her dreams were eventually realized although it was a varied journey to the goal. Coleman was motivated by a cause, she wanted to open her own aviation school; I believe because she wanted other blacks to have the opportunity not afforded to her in the US. Tragically, she lost her life in a plane crash.
Patricia E. Bath is the first African American female doctor to patent a medical invention. Patricia Bath's patent was for a method for removing cataract lenses that transformed eye surgery by using a laser device making the procedure more accurate. Patricia Bath's passionate dedication to the treatment and prevention of blindness led her to develop the Cataract Laserphaco Probe. The probe patented in 1988, was designed to use the power of a laser to quickly and painlessly vaporize cataracts from patients' eyes, replacing the more common method of using a grinding, drill-like device to remove the afflictions. With another invention, Bath was able to restore sight to people who had been blind for over 30 years. Patricia Bath also holds patents for her invention in Japan, Canada, and Europe.
Ruby Bridges In spring of 1960, Ruby Bridges was one of 6 black children in New Orleans to pass the test that determined whether or not the black children would go to the all-white school. Ruby was the only one assigned to William Frantz. Her father was initially reluctant, but her mother felt strongly that the move was needed not only to give her own daughter a better education, but to "take this step forward ... for all African-American children." The court-ordered first day of integrated schools in New Orleans, November 14, 1960, was commemorated by Norman Rockwell in the painting The Problem We All Live With. As soon as Bridges entered the school, white parents pulled their own children out; all teachers refused to teach while a black child was enrolled. Only one person agreed to teach Ruby and for over a year Mrs. Henry taught her alone, "as if she were teaching a whole class." That first day, Bridges and her adult companions spent the entire day in the principal's office; the chaos of the school prevented their moving to the classroom until the second day. Every morning, as Bridges walked to school, one woman would threaten to poison her; because of this, the U.S. Marshals dispatched by President Eisenhower, who were overseeing her safety, only allowed Ruby to eat food that she brought from home. Another woman at the school put a black baby doll in a wooden coffin and protested with it outside the school, a sight that Bridges Hall has said "scared me more than the nasty things people screamed at us." At her mother's suggestion, Bridges began to pray on the way to school, which she found provided protection from the comments yelled at her on the daily walks.