An 1864 photo of Sojourner Truth
An 1864 photo of Sojourner Truth

While many obstacles that stood in the way 100 years ago have been eliminated through legislative victories, Black women continue to carry the torch first held by their suffrage ancestors in today’s battle against voter suppression efforts throughout the country.

“Black woman was not an equal, thus she could not be considered a suffragette or even a citizen,” Allison Matulli, a Howard University School of Law graduate and dean of Legal Literacy for The Little Lawyers in Miami, wrote in an email to The Washington Informer.

“Our right to vote is no mere movement because it has no end. We have it on paper as the ink has dried on that law. But we need to make sure, just as the original suffragettes pushed against towering boulders beyond their own vision, that we, too, must emancipate a relentless willingness to keep pushing,” Matulli wrote.

“I turn your attention to the words of the ultimate suffragette, Sojourner Truth, who at the age of 80 delivered a speech on May 9, 1867, for the American Equal Rights Association that still rings true today in which she said, ‘I suppose I am about the only colored woman who goes about to speak for the colored women’s rights. I want to keep the thing stirring, now that the ice is cracked. Let’s keep cracking that ice together.’ You are no longer alone. Now, you see us America.”

As a human rights activist in the Black community and a doctoral candidate in Politics and International Relations focusing on African Studies, Veronique Ehamo said she has long recognized Black women’s power.

“When given the opportunity, Black women not only thrive but excel immeasurably – take college education statistics as an example,” she said. “Historically, through an awareness of intersectionality, Black women could not devote sole efforts for African Americans or women’s suffrage. It is important to acknowledge the crucial role Black women played in getting the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments passed.”

“Now, decades after suffrage movements and with firm allegiance, Black women continue to vocally support agendas that cater to the betterment of the lives of people of color. Not only do we show up, but we influence others to take part in the voting process, canvas for politicians and campaign on the front lines for mutual objectives,” she said.

Alexandra Allred, an adjunct professor at Tarleton State University, paralleled the suffrage movement to modern time.

“Today, we see how the archaic belief system of a few bad people can and are reversing things, bringing about a division we’ve not seen since Martin Luther King’s push for social justice,” Allred declared.

“Just as suffragists and abolitionists faced fear-mongering, campaign-smearing tactics by those afraid of losing their ‘standing’ in society, it is happening again. As for my own work, focused on sport, we see how countries that empower their citizens have greater education, economic, political and social power that then lend to greater equality, thus athletes. I see early suffragists and abolitionists as athletes. Despite tremendous adversity, they had the determination, the stamina and the grit of the most hardened athlete,” Allred said.

This feature is part of an ongoing Washington Informer series about the Women’s Suffrage Movement initiated by Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes. It lives in the institutional home of The Washington Informer Charities. 

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Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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