The Role of Black Women in Shaping American HistoryJul 19, 2023 10:00AM ● By Anand Subramanian
Black women have played an integral role in shaping American history, yet their contributions often go unrecognized and underappreciated. Despite facing systemic racism, sexism, and various forms of discrimination, Black women have significantly contributed to multiple fields, including politics, civil rights, education, and culture.
During slavery, Black women played a crucial role in resisting their enslavement. They worked alongside Black men in the abolitionist movement, advocating for the end of slavery and equal rights for Black people. Harriet Tubman, known as the "conductor" of the Underground Railroad, led numerous enslaved individuals to freedom, risking her own life in the process. Sojourner Truth, a formerly enslaved person, gave a powerful speech at the 1851 Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, famously asking, "Ain't I a woman?" These women, and countless others, fought tirelessly for the abolition of slavery and the advancement of Black people.
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Black women also played a crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Women like Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker were instrumental in organizing grassroots efforts to register Black voters and challenge segregation in the South. Diane Nash, a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (S.N.C.C.), led campaigns that successfully desegregated public spaces in Nashville, Tennessee. And, of course, the most well-known figure of the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks, was a Black woman who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, sparking a year-long boycott and leading to the eventual desegregation of public transportation.
Black women have also made significant contributions to the arts and culture. Writers like Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Zora Neale Hurston used their words to challenge societal norms and explore the complexities of the Black experience. Musicians Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Aretha Franklin paved the way for future generations of Back artists, using their voices to tell their stories and challenge racial barriers in the music industry.
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In politics, Black women have broken barriers and shattered glass ceilings. Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman elected to Congress in 1968 and later ran for president, paving the way for future Black women in politics. In 2017, Kamala Harris became the first Black and South Asian woman elected to the U.S. Senate. In 2020, she became the first woman, Black person, and South Asian person to be elected Vice President of the United States.
Despite their many contributions, Black women face systemic racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination. They are often overlooked and undervalued, and their voices are often silenced. We must recognize and celebrate the significant role Black women have played in shaping American history and continue supporting and uplifting their voices and experiences.
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Anand Subramanian is a freelance photographer and content writer based out of Tamil Nadu, India. Having a background in Engineering always made him curious about life on the other side of the spectrum. He leapt forward towards the Photography life and never looked back. Specializing in Documentary and Portrait photography gave him an up-close and personal view into the complexities of human beings and those experiences helped him branch out from visual to words. Today he is mentoring passionate photographers and writing about the different dimensions of the art world.
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