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She Would Not Be Silent, Ida B Wells [b. 1862 - d. 1931] Ida B Wells was in England in 1894 when she heard that white Southerners had put a black woman in San Antonio, Texas into a barrel with "nails driven through the sides and then rolled [it] down a hill until she died." The 31 year old Wells, a black Southerner, was seasoned to the widespread phenomenon of mob torture and murder that went by the shorthand "lynching"; in fact, she was abroad on a speaking tour denouncing it. Nonetheless, she shed tears over the latest "outrage upon my people." Her call to speak out against lynching had come just two years earlier, when a Memphis mob murdered her close friend and neighbor Thomas Moss. The incident started as a dispute among white and black boys playing marbles, but it quickly evolved into an excuse to murder Moss, a successful businessman who was drawing patrons away from a nearby white grocer. White Southerners explained to Northerners that they lynched only when they had to: when black men threatened, assaulted and raped white women. Wells was determined to expose the lie. As the murders of the woman in the barrel and Thomas Moss attest, white Southerners also killed black women and economically threatening black men. And even when the mobs tore apart a black man who had been found with a white woman, it wasn't always rape. Sometimes, Wells declared in print, the man was not "a despoiler of virtue," but had succumbed "to the smiles of white women." Her editorial Free Speech, the black weekly she co-owned in Memphis, led white residents to destroy the newspaper's office and threaten to kill her. But even after she was forced into exile from the South, she continued to proclaim -- as a banner headline over one of her articles in a New York paper declared in 1892 --- "The Truth About Lynching." For speaking plainly about rape, sex and murder, Wells lost her home and her livelihood. For the rest of her life, she had to defend her reputation against both white and black people who called her a "negro adventuress" and "Notorious Courtesan." A black newspaper editor suggested that the public should "muzzle" that "animal from Memphis," and the New York Times dubbed her "a slanderous and dirty-minded mulatress." Wells was an orphan and a poor, single woman who supported her younger brothers and sisters through teaching and journalism. She recognized that "my good name was all that I had in the world," yet she would not be silenced. Wells used words to fight white Southern lynch mobs, an indifferent white Northern public and, sometimes, black critics who felt that her outspokenness undermined their agenda. Southern white supremacy was cruel and crazy, and she was the rare person who could see beyond the cultural insanity in which she was immersed. For that she paid dearly. Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore editorial on an upcoming book on Ms. Wells by Paula J Giddings, "Ida: A Sword Among Lions"

unidentified woman, in a studio portrait in the 1930s. from 'The Face of Our Past: Images of Black Women from Colonial America to the Present' edited by Kathleen Thompson and Hilary Mac Austin

From Sepia Roses' Vintage Black Women

c. 1870 of an unidentified African American woman.

gorgeous black women 1950's

Jane Bolin (1908 - 2007) was the first African American female judge in the United States. Her father, Gaius Bolin, the first African American graduate of Williams College, practiced law in Poughkeepsie. Bolin graduated from Wellesley College in 1928. She was the first black woman to graduate from Yale University School of Law and the first to be admitted to the New York City Bar Association.

Educator Charlotte Hawkins Brown on her wedding day in 1912. Founder of the historic Palmer Memorial Institute in North Carolina, Ms. Brown was also one of the invaluable suffragists who worked for black women to have the same equal rights black men and white women were fighting for in the early 20th century. #black_history

Lenora Branch Fulani - USA: Fulani was the first African American to achieve ballot access in all fifty states and received more votes for President in a U.S. general election than any other woman in history. #womens #history #black #women in #politics