Female Liberators in African American History
The process of African Americans’ liberation met challenges that set it back. These challenges were based on gender limitations that existed at the time. Accordingly, despite the liberation of African Americans, gender bias against women was still high. Discrimination against all women, despite their race, was very prominent in that women created movements to fight for equality. The movement advocated for women’s rights because they were overlooked, leading to the rise of outspoken women activists such as Gertrude Elise McDougald Ayer, Lucile Spence, Harriet Tubman, Mary Churchill Terrell, Ida. B. Wells and so many others (Robnett, 1997). These women spoke up about the liberation of women, especially African American women, and this action influenced their lives in one way or another.
The first female liberator is Gertrude Elise McDougald Ayer. Gertrude Ayer was the first African American principal in New York City in 1935 and used her position as a teacher to influence the liberation of women. In her position as a principal, she created relationships with the parents of her students that relaxed the school environment, allowing her students to learn peacefully and relieve the parents. Gertrude Ayer created an environment where white teachers and African American students and parents could coexist peacefully with minimal bias. With her students, she provided counseling to ensure discipline and created programs that allowed children to access education and more information about their different cultures. She brought her students from different cultures together, allowing for interactions that promoted unity. Her students would later become prominent individuals who would also contribute to the liberation of women. Additionally, her fight for the liberation of African American women began in 1916, when she started focusing on issues related to labor and their impacts on both women and girls (Johnson, 2004). Accordingly, while focusing on issues related to labor, she discovered the inequalities present in places of work against African American women and worked in collaboration with other professionals to fight this discrimination and promote equality in places of work.
The second female liberator is Lucile Spence. Lucile Spence was the first African American biology teacher in a school in Harlem in 1926. She was a member of the Teachers Union in New York, where she advocated for reforms socially and economically, including equal learning opportunities, freedom to education, teaching African American history, fighting racial bias in schools, and employing African Americans in the schools as teachers. She advocated for the introduction of African American history into the curriculum and racial integration in schools. When other female African American teachers were dismissed from work in 1950 due to their political affiliation, Lucile Spence spoke up against this form of bias by demonstrating and signing petitions with the collaboration of other protesters. Additionally, she spoke up against the bias of books used in schools for teaching that did not cover the truthful history of African Americans. Accordingly, she also chaired the Women’s Africa Committee, which advocated for the development of African American ties to Africa and the development of Africa. After her retirement in 1961, she continued teaching in other countries in Africa, such as Ghana (Johnson, 2004). Therefore, she was a women liberator in her fight against labor bias by fighting to increase the number of African American teachers, acted in response to the unfair firing of other female teachers in Harlem, and also promoted racial integration and the teaching of African American history in schools in Harlem.
The other female liberator is Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman is well known for the Underground Railroad, where she made several trips to recuse slaves. She is also known as a feminist and a women’s rights advocate. In 1896, she joined the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), where she gave speeches that inspired other African American women to become feminists. This organization had significant roles in unifying women and other organizations that represented women at a time when racial segregation was legalized. She also attended women’s suffrage meetings where she gave speeches empowering the women who attended and listened (Hobson, 2014). Her victory in her tasks inspired the fight for women’s rights and all African Americans’ rights and antislavery. Accordingly, her overcoming of challenges that she faced inspires women of all generations to speak up and advocate for their rights. Therefore, her activism led women to fight against oppression and advocate for their liberation.
The other women liberator is Mary Churchill Terrell. Mary Churchill Terrell was an educator and a feminist. She was the president of the National Association of Colored Women, where she advocated for women’s suffrage and racial equality and was the first woman to serve on the Washington Board of Education. She gave speeches and wrote literary works that spread her ideas. The goal was to eliminate racial inequality and racial segregation everywhere, but especially in Washington, DC. Having faced racial discrimination in the mission for her work and witnessed the oppression of other African Americans, her motivation for racial equality and integration grew, leading to racial equality. She traveled all around the United States and Europe as she gave speeches where she met discrimination based on her race and gender (Quigley, 2016). The first-hand experiences influenced her reaction and drove her to make the world accept African Americans and inspired women to speak up against their discrimination and oppression, advocating for the liberation of African American women and other African American people in general.
The other female liberator is Ida. B. Wells. Ida. B. Wells advocated for anti-lynching, women’s suffrage, civil rights, and racial equality. She is defined as the most accomplished African American female journalist of that era. She fought against racial discrimination by suing two railroads biased against her based on her skin color. She boldly advocated for political and gender-based bias reforms, which led to her being outcasted by other African American organizations and women (Bay, 2002). Her boldness and passion for women’s empowerment and racial equality led to the liberation of African Americans and women by using her journalism career as a medium of passing the messages of racial equality.
In conclusion, many female liberators participated in the achievement of racial equality. These women tackled inequality through various methods, from labor activism, anti-lynching, women’s civil rights, and racial equality. They continue inspiring women today to accomplish more and are responsible for how far the world has evolved from eras of slavery to date. Therefore, these women should be celebrated for their contribution to history and the revolutions of the world.
Bay, M. (2002). The Improbable Ida B. Wells. Reviews In American History, 30(3), 439-444. https://doi.org/10.1353/rah.2002.0049
Hobson, J. (2014). Harriet Tubman. Meridians, 12(2), 1-8. https://doi.org/10.2979/meridians.12.2.1
Johnson, L. (2004). A Generation of Women Activists: African American Female Educators in Harlem, 1930-1950. The Journal Of African American History, 89(3), 223-240. https://doi.org/10.2307/4134076
Quigley, J. (2016). Just another southern town: mary church terrell and the struggle for racial justice in the nation’s capital. Oxford University Press.
Robnett, B. (1997). How long? How long? African-American Women in the Struggle for Civil Rights. Oxford University Press.
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- Find Five Historical Female Liberation Warriors and Explain their Lives in African American History
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