By Chloe Tai
February is Black History Month, a 1976 creation by historian Carter G. Woodson. The rampant Jim Crow laws that enforced segregation almost seem to be words from a history book nowadays, but those that dedicated their lives to the disintegration of such an unfair system deserve to be recognized even today. We remember Martin Luther King Jr. and his peaceful revolution. We remember Thurgood Marshall, an inspiring Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. We remember proud Malcolm X of the Nation of Islam. Here are some women African American civil rights activists that should be remembered too.
- Rosa Parks
Famous for her stubbornness and refusal to have her basic rights violated, Rosa Parks was instrumental to the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. When she fought to keep her seat in a segregated bus and was consequently convicted, Re=
verend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and black leaders inspired African Americans to boycott the buses until legislation was passed ruling the bus segregation unconstitutional.
- Harriet Tubman
When we hear of Harriet Tubman, we associate her with the Underground Railroad, but her escapades were not nearly as convenient as we make them out to be. Tubman escaped slavery in the South prior to the American Civil War and subsequently returned time and time again to bring her family and other slaves to the North, to the land of freedom. Although called the Underground Railroad, the system Tubman utilized was really only a covert network of slave sympathizers and Northerners who disliked the notion of slavery and provided shelter for the runaways.
- Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth was born into slavery. Truth is most famous for her extemporaneously given speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. She escaped to the North before the 1827 Emancipation Proclamation with her infant daughter, leaving her other children behind. When she found out her son had been illegally sold, she took the matter to court and got her son passage up to the North, becoming one of the first blacks to successfully challenge a white man in court.
- Maya Angelou
A contemporary artist, civil rights activist Maya Angelou is known for her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which made history as the first nonfiction African American best-seller. She was also awarded by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for her literary pieces. Her writing chronicled the struggle for equality in Africa and followed the actions of her acquaintance Nelson Mandela. She also joined with Malcom X in planning the creation of the Organization of Afro-American Unity. A close friend of Martin Luther King Jr., she also served in the Southern Christian Leadership conference. One of her most famous quotes is, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
- Ella Baker
Also a close associate of Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker worked with the NAACP for a number of years as a field secretary before becoming a director of branches. She participated in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and helped to register voters with the Crusade for Citizenship.
- Daisy Bates
Daisy Bates, with her husband Christopher Bates, ran the weekly African-American newspaper, the Arkansas State Press. She later became the president of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP and worked to help desegregate schools in Little Rock.
- Mary McLeod Bethune
Another writer, Mary McLeod Bethune, was a passionate advocate for education who even started her own school in Daytona Beach, Florida, which was later renamed Bethune-Cookman University. She was a renowned leader who became the president of the National Association of Colored Women and founder of the National Council of Negro Women.
Many other African American women who made an impact include, but are not limited to, Septima Clark, Anna Julia Cooper, Angela Davis, Marian White Edelman, and Amy Ashwood Garvey. Each woman made a difference just by speaking up about the issues they cared about. Black History Month is set to honor each and every one of them, as they deserve. As Maya Angelous once said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” That’s exactly what each of these women set out to do.