Stacy M. BrownWomen's Suffrage Movement

Historians Finally Giving Just Due to Black Women of the Suffrage Movement

This is part of an ongoing Washington Informer series about the Women’s Suffrage Movement and an initiative that includes Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes that will use the lens of history, the fabric of art and culture and the venue of the public square to shine a light into dark places, equipping all with a compass to chart the way forward. The initiative lives in the institutional home of the Washington Informer Charities.

Black women are finally getting their due for the significant role they played in the suffrage movement.

An ABC “Good Morning America” segment noted that many historians are rewriting the history books on the role of Black women in the movement.

“What if Black women, it turned out, really always have been at the forefront of the struggles over American women’s voting rights, and what if we as a nation are just catching up to that?” posited Martha S. Jones, one of the many historians now rewriting the history books on the role Black women played in the women’s suffrage movement.

“Historians of African American women, like me, on the one hand, have known many parts of this story for a very long time,” Jones, a history professor at Johns Hopkins University, told “Good Morning America.” “Like with a lot of subjects, how we get that from our classrooms and our professional journals and our books and into the popular mind is always a challenge.”

The Washington Informer began a series nearly one year ago to spotlight the achievements of Black women of the suffrage movement, including Ida B. Wells, Mary McLeod Bethune, Frances Harper, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Maria W. Stewart, Henrietta Purvis, Harriet Forten Purvis, Sarah Remond and Mary Ann Shadd Cary.

“I have to say that we owe everything to our forefathers and mothers,” said Deborah Pretty, president of PYTalkBiz. “I greatly appreciate their courage, bravery, and persistent pursuit for equal rights for all.

“The adage is true if we don’t know our history, we will repeat it,” Pretty said. “And that knowledge and knowing is power. Just to know that people that walk, talk and look like us inspires us to keep moving.”

Monique Lewis of ML Management said the suffrage movement is why she’s not a feminist.

“As a Black woman of this current century, I certainly did not grow up without hearing stories of misogyny, discrimination and racism, particularly the intersection of all three when it came to Black women,” Lewis said. “I understood from a young age what the feminist movements did. Equality, voting rights, equal pay, and more.

“What was hidden from me, quite intentionally, were the stories of women who looked like me leading or participating in these movements,” Lewis continued. “We literally were the hidden figures, and often, when white and non-Black women reached their success, they never reached back to pull us up along with them.

“We were utilized and discarded at a whim,” she said. “This is why I vehemently state that I am not a feminist, I am a womanist who stands for and with other Black women. Being the most maligned, degraded, and abused, I soon realized that we are forced to rely on each other as we lack support from other women.”

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Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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