Jane Bolin, the first African-American woman to serve as a judge in the United States, the first African-American woman to graduate from Yale Law School, the first to join the New York City Bar Association and the first to join the New York City Law Department. She was sworn in as a judge in 1939. #
Before Rosa Parks, A Teenager Defied Segregation On An Alabama Bus

Claudette Colvin was a 15-year-old student from Montgomery, Ala., when she refused to yield her bus seat to a white passenger. But she has been largely forgotten in civil rights history.

Amazing listen, yesterday marked the 55 year anniversary of Claudette Colvin’s legendary resistance on that Montgomery Bus. Just a reminder that young folk have always led resistance, and there were radical folk who will often go unnamed throughout history that we should be more intentional about honoring. 

Salute Ms. Colvin!

Alice Dunnigan began life in rural poverty and eventually became the first African American woman to serve as a White House and congressional news correspondent. The book has been described as an unflinching look at how Dunnigan endured the rough-and-tumble political terrain of the 1940s and 1950s and how she persevered to keep civil rights in the public eye before the civil rights movement was recognized by white America.
We have Carol McCabe Booker to thank for bringing this story back into the light. Booker condensed Dunnigan’s 1974 self-published book editing it to add scholarly annotations and historic context resulting in a book with wide appeal. Booker is a former journalist and DC attorney. She and her husband, Simeon Booker, wrote Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter’s Account of the Civil Rights Movement. Booker is an engaging writer and a captivating presenter.

“Another Negro woman has been arrested and thrown in jail because she refused to get up out of her seat on the bus for a white person to sit down. It is the second time since the Claudette Colvin case that a Negro woman has been arrested for the same thing. This has to be stopped. Negroes have rights too, for if Negroes did not ride the buses, they could not operate. Three-fourths of the riders are Negroes, yet we are arrested, or have to stand over empty seats. If we do not do something to stop these arrests, they will continue. The next time it may be you, or your daughter, or mother. This woman’s case will come up on Monday. We are, therefore, asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial. Don’t ride the buses to work, to town, to school, or anywhere on Monday. You can afford to stay out of school for one day if you have no other way to go except by bus. You can also afford to stay out of town for one day. If you work, take a cab, or walk. But please, children and grown-ups, don’t ride the bus at all on Monday. Please stay off all buses Monday.

Women, Black women of the Women’s Political Council who started the Montgomery Bus Boycotts. Oh, did that part get left out of the history books? 

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 Alice Coachman Davis, the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal died early Monday in south Georgia. She was 90.

Davis won Olympic gold in the high jump at the 1948 games in London with an American and Olympic record of 1.68 meters (5.51 feet), according to USA Track and Field, the American governing body of the sport. Davis was inducted to the USA Track and Field Hall of fame in 1975, and was inducted to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2004.

Davis was the only American woman to win a gold medal at the 1948 games. According to Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, Coachman was honored with a 175-mile motorcade in Georgia when she returned from London. However, the black and white audiences were segregated at her official ceremony in Albany.

Rest in power.

The Woman Civil Rights Leaders Threw Under a Bus

The Woman Civil Rights Leaders Threw Under a Bus

Remembering Claudette Colvin: Black History Month is the perfect time to get our history right.

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Every year during Black History Month,Rosa Parks’ name rolls off the tongues of schoolchildren and educators around the nation as they discuss the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s. Yet the lesser-known Claudette Colvin, whom media outlets have referred to as “The Other Rosa Parks,” still remains absent from any teachings. The historical amnesia that surrounds Colvin is indicting for its revelation of how much the white gaze did and still controls how we remember history and select our icons.

At age 15 Colvin was a bookish, bespectacled young woman who was fascinated by lessons about Africa and Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth during Negro History Week at her school. On March 2, 1955, Colvin says, she channeled the spirit of Sojourner and Harriet when she refused to give up her seat to a white woman on a Montgomery, Ala., bus nine months before Rosa committed the same defiant act. Colvin points out in interviews that the white woman was young and had an available seat opposite her in the same row, but given the Jim Crow custom, there couldn’t be any suggestion that the races were equal, so Colvin was asked to get up. But she did not.

Not only was her refusal met with an arrest, but the male officers were particularly rough with the 15-year-old. Colvin recalled what happened on the progressive radio program Democracy Now:

… One kicked at me, and when one—and he knocked the books out of my hand—out of my lap. And then one grabbed one arm, and one grabbed the other, and they manhandled me off the bus. And after I got into the squad car, they handcuffed me through the window …

With her act of defiance, Colvin gained significant attention. Civil rights activists had been looking for a standard-bearer for their cause. Colvin’s case seemed perfect. But Colvin says she didn’t fit the bill. For one thing, she was dark-skinned in a movement that had been lighter and middle class.

Decades later, when asked by National Public Radio why she thought Parks was remembered instead of her, she responded, “She fit the profile. Parks had the right hair and the right look. Her skin texture was the kind that people associate with the middle class.”

There were other factors as well: Parks was 42 years old at the time, married and a seasoned activist and seamstress who worked for the NAACP. Colvin was just 15 years old, with few connections to the black professional class in Montgomery. She was also soon to engage in an affair with a married man and become pregnant. Not exactly the symbol the movement was looking for to take on the white establishment.

And the rest is history.

Colvin’s name was erased from the movement, and for about 50 years, no one heard about her. She lived in virtual obscurity until a few diligent journalists and historians began writing about the almost forgotten civil rights pioneer.

Phillip Hoose, while working on the book Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, tried to speak with Colvin for four years before she agreed to sit down with him. The condition of her participation was that he would write a book both to teach young people about the civil rights movement and to let them know that she was the first.  

In the 2009 National Book Award winner, a fierce personality emerges. Colvin, without a doubt, was a passionate freedom fighter who deserves to be remembered and celebrated for her contributions to humanity. She is now a retired health worker living in New York City.

At the conclusion of her biography, Colvin reflects on her contribution to the movement and what she was thinking as a 15-year-old: “Why don’t the adults around here just say something? Say it so they know we don’t accept segregation? I knew then and I know now that, when it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can’t sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, ‘That’s not right.’ And I did.”

That Colvin’s story is missing from our official history is an insult to the courageous women and young people who helped changed the course of our country.

Abdul Ali is a longtime contributor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

The world’s oldest university was founded by a African woman

The following post was written by Travis Blakely. It originally appeared on “Your Black World” under the title “An African Woman Founded the World’s Oldest university.”

By: Travis Blakely

When most people talk about historical universities that still exist to this day, normally we think of the much talked about University of Oxford or Cambridge University; both world class institutions of the highest order that have tremendous history. These institutions of higher learning located in the United Kingdom have had an incredible influence in the world of education. In fact, Europe ushered in a plethora of world class universities that became the model of educational centers worldwide. But relatively unknown in Western society is the fact that the oldest universities in the world are not in Europe. The oldest university in the world as recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records and UNESCO, is the University of Al-Karaouine of Morocco (Medina of Fez), discovered in 859A.D. by Fatima al-Fihri, a woman.

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The Janet Collins Story, presented by Sweet Blackberry

by Karyn Parsons

Animated short on Janet Collins, first African-American soloist to perform at the Metropolitan Opera to be narrated by Chris Rock.

Hi, I’m Karyn Parsons. I played Hilary Banks on the TV showThe Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I am also the founder of Sweet Blackberry, an award-winning organization whose mission is to bring little-known stories of African American achievement to kids.

Actor, Comedian, producer and father of two young girls,Chris Rock, has come on board to narrate Janet’s story.

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Sweet Blackberry’s mission is toshare stories that empower and instill a sense of pride in children. Previous films by Sweet Blackberry have received the prestigious Parent’s Choice Award and Learning Magazine’s Teacher’s Choice Awards, among others. They were narrated by noted actors Alfre Woodard andQueen Latifah. Both films showed on HBO and HBO Family and have been distributed to libraries and schools all over the world andhave made a difference!

So much so that a chorus of parents and teachers, around the country, are calling out for us to make more films! For our next story, we will feature theFirst Black Prima Ballerina Janet Collins! 

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Janet Collins was a remarkable woman who overcame incredible obstacles to become the first African American soloist to perform at the Metropolitan Opera! When only 15 years old, the talented Janet Collins was asked by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo to join their company on the condition that she perform inwhiteface!

She declined and later became a celebrated Prima Ballerina at a time when this was unheard of. She also won awards for her dancing on Broadway including the 1950 title ofBest Dancer on Broadway

Janet Collins set the stage for an explosion of African American dancers for years to come, paving the way for companies like Alvin Ailey and the Dance Theater of Harlem.

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“What she did by dancing the way she did “- dancer, actor, and painterGeoffrey Holdersaid – "To be a Prima Ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera House – gave everybody hope.” 

Janet Collins’s story shows children that they can be anythingeven if you are being told that what you are is not the model for success. She knocked down the barriers!Janet Collinsrose to such heights that it is our duty at Sweet Blackberry to share her story with as wide an audience possible!

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Janet Collins was also a real life Black Prima Ballerina. Little girls grow up dreaming of princesses and ballerinas, but some don’t have role models to follow and little-known Janet Collins was just that! It’s important that wenurture young girls’ (and boys’) self-esteem by providing them with strong, positive images and let them know that they are beautiful.


Janet’s story belongs to all of us. We need collaborators to get this done! Together, we will make a 20-minute, animated film, to be narrated byChris Rock, bringing to life Janet’s inspiring story, that will be distributed to libraries and schools, broadcast to a wide audience, and enjoyed in homes across the country. 

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Celebrated children’s book illustrator R. Gregory Christie(who has worked with the New Yorker and New York Times, as well as in over 50 books) has signed on to create the look of the film (including the great illustrations above).

Emmy-Award nominated creative studio PixelPirate Production, will be handling the animation of the film. They’ve done work with Nick, Marvel and many other brands for kids and adults, so we’re sure they’ll do Janet Collins proud.

In addition, there are the important touches:title design;sound, mixingandmusic clearances; anactor, extras, equipmentand all the other things needed toshoot a live action sequence; post productionand aneditor; as well asdigital masteryso the project is ready to land in a classroom, on TV or in a home.


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The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air cast!

THIS.Thank you Karyn!!
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