american suffragist

The African-American Suffragists History Forgot 

by Lynn Yaeger 

[T]hough we may have vague notions of the American women who fought so heroically for the ballot on this side of the Atlantic, they are, in our minds, in our imaginations, in the photographs and first-person narratives that have come down to us, uniformly white people.

[Read Lynn Yaeger’s Vogue.com article in its entirety here.]

Racist policies often kept African-American women out of the suffragist movement. The headquarters of Colored Women Voters, located in Georgia, was one of many early 20th-century organizations that fought for African-American suffrage.

Source: CUNY

Engraving of Frances Harper from  William Still. The underground railroad.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (September 24, 1825 – February 22, 1911) was an African-American abolitionist, suffragist, poet and author. She was also active in other types of social reform and was a member of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which advocated the federal government taking a role in progressive reform. 

youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7j9_yoD_lY

Hidden Figures: Mary Ann Shadd Cary #BlackHERstoryMonth 17/28

Mary Ann Shadd Cary, born Mary Ann Shadd in 1823, was an African American teacher, journalist, lawyer, suffragist, and staunch advocate for the emigration of free Black Americans to countries outside of the United States that had abolished slavery. Cary was born to free Blacks in Wilmington, Delaware, and her father was an outspoken anti-slavery activist that had been a soldier in the Revolutionary War, a conductor of the Underground Railroad,  an active member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, and, in 1833, named President of the National Convention for the Improvement of Free People of Colour in Philadelphia. After it became illegal to educate African-American children in the state of Delaware, Cary’s family moved her and her siblings to Pennsylvania, where she received a Quaker education.

In 1840, at the age of 27, Cary established a school for Black children in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and later established a second school in New York. When the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, allowing for the capture and return of slaves even in states where slavery had been abolished (which often led to the capture of free Blacks that had received their freedom legally or never even been enslaved), Cary’s family moved to Canada.

Cary became a fierce emigrationist activist in Canada, publishing and editing ‘The Provincial Freemen,’ wherein she wrote essays about racism, slavery, gender discrimination, and her support for race and sex equality. She was the first woman publisher and editor in Canada and the first Black woman publisher in North America. She encouraged African-Americans to relocate to Canada, where they could find economic and political freedom, and was a fierce supporter of independent, free Black settlements and farming communities. While in Canada, she married Thomas F. Cary, a Toronto barber, and after his death in 1860 she returned to the United States with their children.

In the U.S. she served as a recruiting officer to enlist black volunteers for the Union Army in the state of Indiana during the Civil War, and after the war’s end, she taught at Black schools back in Delaware as well as in Washington, D.C. In 1880, she founded the Colored Women’s Progressive Franchise Association in D.C., and in 1883, at the age of 60, Cary became the second Black woman in America to earn a law degree, graduating from Howard University. In 1893, she died from stomach cancer in Washington, D.C. Her former home on U St. is recognized as a National Historic Landmark.

#HiddenFigures #BlackHERstoryMonth

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Women to remember today:

Ida B. Wells was an African-American journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, feminist, Georgist, and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement. She was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.

Shirley Chisholm was an American politician, educator, and author. In 1968, she became the first African American woman elected to the United States Congress, and she represented New York’s 12th Congressional District for seven terms from 1969 to 1983. In 1972, she became the first black candidate for a major party’s nomination for President of the United States, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Barbara Jordan A Democrat, she was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, the first Southern African-American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives… Jordan’s sexual preference has never been determined, but some sources list her as a lesbian. She would have been the first lesbian known to have been elected to the United States Congress.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2013/03/03/despite-the-tremendous-risk-african-american-women-marched-for-suffrage-too/?postshare=2011478578433499&tid=ss_tw

“I feel that I have the right to have just as much as a man. There is a great stir about colored men getting their rights, but not a word about the colored women; and if colored men get their rights and colored women not theirs, the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before,” the abolitionist Sojourner Truth said in 1867.

I am thinking about Truth, and so many other African-American female freedom fighters, because of the imminent release of the film Suffragette, starring Carey Mulligan. If that movie chronicles the struggle for the vote in Britain, it also brings to mind our own suffrage story. But though we may have vague notions of the American women who fought so heroically for the ballot on this side of the Atlantic, they are, in our minds, in our imaginations, in the photographs and first-person narratives that have come down to us, uniformly white people.


Who would blame you if you thought there were no African-American women who lent their hearts and minds, their intellects, their bodies to the suffrage cause! Rendered invisible in so many accounts, they were in fact doubly brave, fighting a dual oppression—marginalized, trivialized, humiliated, and dismissed for being both black and female.

Women like Naomi Anderson, a suffrage activist who gave a fiery, controversial speech at the first Women’s Rights Convention in Chicago in 1869, and Mary Ann Shadd Cary, the second black female attorney in the country, renowned for her tough oratory, who organized the Colored Women’s Progressive Franchise Association in 1880. Or Anna Julia Cooper, who once announced, “The old, subjective, stagnant, indolent, and wretched life for woman has gone. She has as many resources as men, as many activities beckon her on. As large possibilities swell and inspire her heart.” Or the educator Nannie Helen Burroughs, who asserted: “When the ballot is put into the hands of the American woman, the world is going to get a correct estimate of the Negro woman. It will find her a tower of strength of which poets have never sung, orators have never spoken, and scholars have never written.”

Or Elizabeth Piper Ensley, who fought for—and won—full suffrage for women of all races in Colorado in 1893. And what of Sarah Massey Overton, fighting for the vote in California in the early years of the 20th century? And Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, who had the prescience to state, “I do not think the mere extension of the ballot a panacea for all the ills of our national life. What we need today is not simply more voters, but better voters.” (Could there be truer words, with our own presidential election looming?)

Alas, while black women fought and fought hard, many of their Caucasian sisters remained locked in the racist conventions of the day. When the stunningly accomplished Ida B. Wells, who founded the Chicago-based Alpha Suffrage Club, arrived in Washington, D.C. to participate in the 1913 suffrage parade, organizers asked the black women if they would mind very much marching at the end of the demonstration.

http://www.vogue.com/13363234/african-american-suffragists-women-voting-rights/

Of the many inhuman outrages of this present year, …the only case where the proposed lynching did not occur, was where the men armed themselves… The only times an Afro-American who was assaulted got away has been when he had a gun and used it in self-defense. The lesson this teaches, and which every Afro-American should ponder well, is that a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give.
— 

In her harrowing 1892 treatise on the horrors of lynching in the post-bellum American South, the journalist, suffragist, republican, and civil-rights champion Ida B. Wells established for her readers the value of bearing arms.

Harriet Tubman – RIP March 10, 1913

Conductor on the Underground Railroad, Armed Insurrectionist, Suffragist, Nurse

“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.” 

Image: MONUMENT TO HARRIET TUBMAN (Front View)
by Mike Alewitz/ 2000

Destroyed by City Officials of Cambridge, MD

Images of the Censored Murals

Via Mike Alewitz

Lucy Burns (1879-1966) was an American suffragist and women’s rights activist who, along with Alice Paul, founded the National Woman’s Party in 1916. Her passionate efforts to secure votes for women brought her multiple encounters with the police and even imprisonment, but not even jail impeded her activism.

She attended Oxford University, and while in England met Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters. They were such an inspiration that Burns decided to stay in the United Kingdom and work for the Women’s Social and Political Union. She eventually returned to the United States, where she campaigned heavily for suffrage and more rights for women. On one occasion, while she was in prison, she managed to write and circulate one of the first documents to define the status of political prisoners.

“I feel that I have the right to have just as much as a man. There is a great stir about colored men getting their rights, but not a word about the colored women; and if colored men get their rights and colored women not theirs, the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before,” the abolitionist Sojourner Truth said in 1867.
—  http://www.vogue.com/contributor/lynn-yaeger/
The African-American Suffragists History Forgot
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Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931) was an African-American journalistnewspaper editorsuffragistsociologist and, with her husband, newspaper owner Ferdinand L. Barnett, an early leader in the civil rights movement. She documented lynching in the United States, showing how it was often a way to control or punish blacks who competed with whites. She was active in women’s rights and the women’s suffrage movement, establishing several notable women’s organizations. Wells was a skilled and persuasive rhetorician, and traveled internationally on lecture tours.[1]