This Black History Month NOW highlights activists and advocates of the civil rights and women’s rights movements, who tirelessly worked to make the world a more equal place. They formed important organizations for people of color and women that are still present today, questioned the dominant white and male order, and spoke on the intersectionality of their race and gender. NOW recognizes and celebrates the important work of these black feminists, and will continue to stand in solidarity with and follow the lead of other African Americans to overcome the barriers to justice and equality that have been imposed by racism.
- SOJOURNER TRUTH, abolitionist and women’s rights activist
“If it is not a fit place for women, it is unfit for men to be there.”
Born a slave, Truth escaped to freedom in 1826 and spent her life advocating for equal rights for all. Her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech addressed the lack of recognition towards black women in the promotion of equal rights.
- ANNA JULIA COOPER, activist and advocate for black women
“We take our stand on the solidarity of humanity, the oneness of life, and the unnaturalness and injustice of all special favoritism, whether of sex, race, country, or condition.”
Cooper was the fourth African American woman to receive a doctoral degree, and was a strong advocate for the voice of black women. She founded the Colored Women’s League of Washington in 1892, and assisted in opening the first YWCA chapter for black women. Her book, A Voice from the South is a foundational text of black feminism.
- IDA B. WELLS, journalist, abolitionist, and feminist
“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”
Wells was a famous investigative journalist and Civil Rights leader. A founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Wells spent her life uncovering injustices and fighting prejudice. As a civil rights activist, she documented the horrific lynchings in the United States and frequently spoke about the intersection of race and gender.
- FRANCES ELLEN WATKINS HARPER, abolitionist and suffragist
“So close is the bond between man and woman that you cannot raise one without lifting the other. The world cannot move ahead without woman’s sharing in the movement.”
Watkins Harper was a poet, writer, abolitionist, and activist. Born free, she helped slaves with the Underground Railroad and wrote anti-slavery pieces for newspapers. She later was a co-founder and vice president of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), and served as director of the American Association of Colored Youth.
- MARY CHURCH TERRELL, civil rights and women’s rights leader
“A white woman has only one handicap to overcome – that of sex. I have two – both sex and race… Colored men have only one – that of race. Colored women are the only group in this country who have two heavy handicaps to overcome, that of race as well as that of sex.”
Terrell was the first African American woman to earn a college degree, a founder of the NAACP, and the first president of the NACW. She also co-founded the National Association of University Women. An activist all her life, Terrell spoke about the difficulties of being a woman and being black, and how those issues intersected.
- SHIRLEY CHISHOLM, advocate for women and minorities
“I want history to remember me… as a black woman who lived in the 20th century and who dared to be herself. I want to be remembered as a catalyst for change in America.”
Chisholm was the first African American woman in Congress and the first African American woman to seek a major party’s nomination for president. As a congresswoman, Chisholm co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus and introduced over 50 pieces of legislation. After leaving Congress, she founded the National Political Congress of Black Women.
- PAULI MURRAY, civil rights and women’s rights activist
“True community is based upon equality, mutuality, and reciprocity. It affirms the richness of individual diversity as well as the common human ties that bind us together.”
Murray was a civil rights and women’s rights activist, and the first African-American woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest. Murray was also a co-founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW), and sat on President Kennedy’s Presidential Commission on the Status of Women.
- DOROTHY HEIGHT, civil rights and women’s rights activist
“A [black] woman has the same kind of problems as other women, but she can’t take the same things for granted.”
Height was a civil rights and women’s right activist who served as President of the National Council of Negro Women for forty years. She frequently offered advice to Eleanor Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson, and helped organize the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
- ROSA PARKS, civil rights activist
“Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome.”
Parks, “the first lady of civil rights,” was an activist famous for her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Later in life, she founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development for Detroit Youth.
- AUDRE LORDE, feminist and civil rights activist
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
Lorde was a civil rights and women’s rights activist, as well as a writer and poet. Her poems mainly pertain to feminism, her identity as a black lesbian woman, and intersectionality.