Septima Poinsette Clark (May 3, 1898—December 15, 1987)
Septima Poinsette Clarkwas a civil rights and education activist. Originally barred from teaching in Charleston, SC schools because she was Black, Clark petitioned for that right in 1920. She won. And she did it while teaching children during the day and adults at night in a nearby town. MLK Jr. refers to her as “The Mother of the Movement”.
Mae C. Jemison (October 17, 1956)
Mae C. Jemisonwas not only the first Black woman in space, she was the first Black female astronaut for NASA ever. She launched in the Endeavor in 1992, just 25 years ago.
Maria Weems (1840—?)
Above is Anna Maria Weems, a woman who escaped slavery by posing as a male. With a $500 reward for her capture, Weems spent over two months on the road until she found freedom in Canada. This art comes courtesy of the Smithsonian Libraries’ (@smithsonianlibraries) yearly celebration of BHM, which includes stories, art, personal histories, and lots more from their massive collection.
Follow these too:
Black Women Art (@fyblackwomenart) has been around since 2012 (!), giving anyone who follows them a regular dose of art featuring Black women.
Badass Black Women History Month (@bbwhm) is a brand new Tumblr celebrating badass Black women every day for Black History Month. Hell yeah.
There are more in the search results, of course. More Black women in STEM, in music, in sports, standing up for their rights, and have you read up on the Motorcycle Queen of Miami? One thing to note: some of these posts aren’t just highlighting women from 10, 20, 30, 100 years ago. They’re also highlighting Black women today, because Black women are still making history.
Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first black female judge in the New York State Court of Appeals and the first female Muslim judge in the United States, was found dead on April 12, 2017. Sheila Abdus-Salaam was born Sheila Turner to working-class parents in Washington DC on March 14, 1952. Her inspiration to become a lawyer came from the TV shows she loved as a girl and from Frankie Muse Freeman, a civil rights activist and lawyer, who visited her school. Among her many accomplishments, Sheila Abdus-Salaam made the groundbreaking decision in a case that allowed LGBT parents to pursue equal parenting rights. Lacking a final statement from a medical examiner or a suicide note, the police and the media have still been quick to label her death a suicide, citing that she was ‘stressed at work.’ We can only wait for further investigation and hope that she receives as much justice in death as she offered to the world in life. For the time being, until we know the results of the investigation, SAY HER NAME.
For Refinery29’s celebration of Black History Month we put together a list of Black men and women you ought to know. Their legacy in civil rights, feminism, and LGBTQ equality lives on today.
Bayard Rustin — A leading Black figure in the civil rights movement and advisor to Martin Luther King, he was the architect of the 1963 March on Washington and was heavily involved in the first Freedom Rides. He was also gay and a registered communist who went to jail for his sexual orientation. Although widely heralded, he was attacked even by fellow activists for his faith in nonviolence, unapologetic queerness, and attention to income equality. President Obama honored Rustin posthumously with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
Combaheee River Collective — A seminal Black lesbian feminist group active from 1974-1980. Although officially short lived, its influence has been major. The group is best known for writing the Combaheee River Collective Statement, an important document in promoting the idea that social change must be intersectional — and that Black women’s needs were not being met by mainstream white feminism and therefore must strike out on their own. Members of the collective included Audre Lorde and…Chirlane McCray, now First Lady of New York City and author of the landmark essay “I Am a Lesbian,” published in Essence in 1979.
John Carlos, Tommie Smith, and Peter Norman — The winners of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics 200 Meter Sprint. In one of the proudest and most political moments of sports history, John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their leather-gloved fists in the Black Power salute. They wore black socks without shoes to represent black poverty and a scarf and necklace to symbolize “those individuals that were lynched, or killed and that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the middle passage.”
We also include in our list Peter Norman, the white Australian silver medalist from that ceremony, to commemorate his solidarity with the two Black athletes. White people are more than indebted to black history, and Norman is an excellent example of a white ally. Although he didn’t perform the black power salute, he publicly supported the duo without regard to personal safety or retribution. Norman was penalized for his alliance with Carlos and Smith and was never again allowed to compete in any Olympics despite repeatedly qualifying. Largely forgotten and barred from major sporting events, he became a gym teacher and worked at a butcher shop. At his funeral in 2006, John Carlos and Tommie Smith were his pallbearers.
The Friendship Nine — This group of nine Black students from Friendship Junior College willingly went to jail without bail in 1961 after staging a sit-in at McCrory’s lunch counter in Rock Hill, South Carolina. They pioneered the civil rights strategy “Jail, No Bail,” which placed the financial burden for racist incarceration back on the state. They’re appreciated today for their bravery and strategic ingenuity. In 2015 their conviction was finally overturned and prosecutor Kevin Brackett personally apologized to the eight living members of the group.
Barbara Jordan — A lawyer and politician, Barbara Jordan was the first Black woman elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, the first southern Black woman to be elected as a US Senator, and the first Black woman to deliver a keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. Her keynote address is widely considered the greatest of all time, aided by her charismatic and eloquent public speaking skills. She is also remembered as one of the leaders of the impeachment of Richard Nixon. We chose the above quote to illustrate her unique punchy sense of humor.
Pauli Murray — This civil rights activist, feminist, and poet was a hugely successful lawyer who is also recognized as the first Black female Episcopal priest. Like many figures on this list, Murray was acutely aware of the complex relationship between race and gender, and referred to sexism as “Jane Crow,” comparing midcentury treatment of women to that of African Americans in the South. Although she graduated from Howard University first in her class, she was barred from enrolling as a postgraduate at Harvard because she was a woman. Instead, in 1965 she became the first African American to receive a JSD from Yale Law. Once armed with a law degree she became a formidable force in advancing feminist and civil rights. She is a cofounder of the National Organization for Women (NOW). She also identified as having an “inverted sex instinct,” which she used instead of “homosexual” to describe her complicated gender identity and lifelong attraction to women.
USA. California. Berkeley. 1971. Black Panther co-founder Huey Newton hugs Central Committee member Elaine Brown at his house shortly after his release from prison on August 5, 1970. Brown later became chairman of the Panthers.
Bayard Rustin was the heart and soul of the black civil rights movement in the United States, He was Martin Luther King Jr.s chef organizer, the pioneer of nonviolent resistance, and the man behind the march on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, during which Dr.King delivered his momentous and influential “I Have a Dream” speech. Rustin’s open homosexuality was contentious, and to this day his impact on the American landscape is all too often overlooked.
USA. California. San Francisco. 1969. The Panthers also ran a number of social service programs in cities across the country, including free breakfasts for students, health clinics and schools. Here, students give the black power salute at a “liberation school".
If you don’t have a problem with the GOP silencing Warren for quoting a civil rights activist, you need to wake up. If you don’t have a problem with Betsy devos unqualified ass paying her way to the top, you need to wake up. If you don’t have a problem with the White House covering phone calls between trump and Putin, you need to wake up. If you don’t have a problem with trump not getting along with other world leaders, you need to wake up. If you don’t have a problem with the silencing of government scientists, you need to wake up. If you don’t have a problem with white supremacists working within trump’s administration, YOU. NEED. TO. WAKE. UP…..fascism and corruption is everywhere and we can’t have people’s heads in their asses like this,,….we gotta be aware of this shit so we know what to do incase it gets too far
a young jazz singer falls in love with an established film noir actress and the singer finds out the actress had been sending her anonymous roses so she dedicates a song to her and there’s a scene where she’s singing it on stage in a club and all other sound fades out and the camera focuses on the actress, who’s regarding her with interest
a sixties era student falls in love with a gay civil rights activist who quit her career as a professor and the film is half about activism and half about their soft domestic lives together and the entire aesthetic and wardrobe is dreamy like vintage sixties advertisements
an up and coming undercover journalist in new york city who’s cold and mean and dresses only in pencil skirts is seduced by a woman played by like, monica belluci, and drawn into a diamond heist and a passionate love affair
a university student is on a brief study abroad trip in italy and notices a dreamy lady on a beach in a glamorous creme bathing suit against the backdrop of sparkling water but doesn’t think much of it until she sees her again drinking wine in the hotel bar and looking mysterious and smoky and the film is sort of like salvatore by lana del rey and includes a drive through sicily in a white car
a bored and rich woman finds out her renowned husband’s been sleeping around when he’s on business trips so she plots how to destroy his career and reputation meanwhile she’s lonely and growing close to the sweet flustered maid and buying her things and giving her clothes she’s ‘too old for now’ and absentmindedly helping with chores and asking her about her life over wine and asking her to ‘stay for awhile’