Black Women were (and still are) the cornerstone of the Civil Rights Movement, yet our contributions are largely ignored. I salute these HER-story making sistas for their contributions. I will be doing posts like this every so often to pay homage to Civil Rights heroines and martyrs.
Dr. Shabazz, Mrs. Scott-King, and Mrs. Evers-Williams were more than members of the unfortunate club of the civil rights widows. In the aftermath of their husbands’ deaths they continued to push forward raising their children and preserving their husbands’ legacies. They were not only wives and mothers, they were professionals and civil/human rights activist too.
Dr. Betty (Betty X) Shabazz: (1934-1997)- Widow of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X), Nurse, Educator, and Civil Rights Activist. Associate professor of Health Sciences at Medgar Evers College (1976-1997) Director of Institutional Advancement and Public Affairs at Medgar Evers College (1980-1997)
Coretta Scott-King: (1927-2006) Widow of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Author, Civil Rights Activist, Women’s Rights Activist, and Anti-War Activist. Winner of the Academy of Achievements Golden Plate Award (1997) and Gandhi Peace Prize (2004)
Myrlie Ever-Williams: (1933)- Widow of Medgar Evers, author, journalist, former chair of the NAACP (1995-1998), and Civil Rights Activist. Winner of the NAACP Spingarn Award (1998) and National Freedom Award (2009).
Claudette Colvin (1939)- Nurse’s Aide and Civil Rights Activist. On March 2, 1955, a few months before Rosa Parks gave up her seat and at only 15 years old, Claudette refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. She was arrested and became one of four plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, which ruled that Montgomery’s segregated bus system was unconstitutional.
Rosa Louise McCauley-Parks (1913-2005)– Seamstress and Civil Rights Activist. On December 1, 1955, Montgomery, Al. Mrs. Parks refuse to give up her seat to a white passenger, which was the catalyst of the city-wide Montgomery Bus Boycott causing Montgomery city officials to lift the bus segregation laws. In June 1999, she was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, the highest civilian honor by former President Bill Clinton.
The 4 Little Girls (Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins, and Carol Robertson)– On Sunday September 15, 1963, the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed by four KKK members. The innocent lives of four beautiful Black Princesses between the ages of 11 and 14 were killed in the blast while preparing for Sunday School Services. Martyrs by default, these little girls’ murders marked a turning point in the civil rights movement and a catalyst for the signing of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. On May 24, 2013 President Barack Obama awarded the 4 little girls posthumously the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, the highest civilian honor.
The Civil Rights Widows, Rosa Parks, and Claudette Colvin Biographies from Bio.com
The 4 Little Girls Bio from Wikipedia.com
This is Lorraine Vivian Hansberry. She was born on May 19, 1930 in Chicago, Illinois. Lorraine was the youngest of four siblings. Her father Carl Augustus Hansberry was a successful banker (he founded Lake Street Bank, one of Chicago’s Banks for Blacks) and real estate broker and her mother, Nannie Perry Hansberry was a schoolteacher. Lorraine’s uncle, William Leo Hansberry was a professor of Africana studies at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Her family contributed funds to the NAACP and the Urban League and throughout her childhood, many prominent African-American social and political leaders such as W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, Duke Ellington, and Jesse Owens visited Lorraine’s family home. When she was eight, Lorraine’s family moved to a white neighborhood in which they were violently attacked by white mobs. Her parents refused to move the family and the case was taken to the Chicago Supreme Court (Hansberry vs. Lee) which ruled that restrictive covenants were illegal. The court upheld the legality of the restrictive covenant and Lorraine’s family was forced to leave, but later the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision based on a legal technicality. The decision resulted in 30 blocks of Chicago’s South side given to African-Americans. The case marked the end of racially restricted covenants even though it was not argued that they were illegal.
Lorraine graduated from Englewood High School. Lorraine broke her family tradition of enrolling and attending Southern Black Universities and attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She first majored in painting then switched her major to writing. After two years, she dropped out and moved to New York. There Lorraine attended the New School for Social Research. She became a writer and associate editor for Paul Robeson’s progressive Black Newspaper, Freedom from 1950 to 1953. She also worked part-time as a waitress and cashier, writing in her spare time. In 1956, Lorraine quit her jobs to devote her self to writing full-time. In 1957, she join the Daughters of Bilitis and contributed a letter to their magazine, The Letters, on the subjects of feminism and discrimination.
While writing for The Letters, she wrote her first play the Crystal Stair later renamed A Raisin In the Sun about a struggling Black Chicagoan family. The play was named after a line in Langston Hughes’ poem, “Harlem”:
“What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore — and then run?”
The played debuted at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on March 11, 1959 and was a very successful with 530 performance runs. James Baldwin said of the play:
… never before, in the entire history of the American theater, had so much of the truth of black people’s lives been seen on the stage.
A Raisin In the Sun was the first play produced on Broadway by a African-American Woman. Lorraine was the first African-American playwright and the youngest person to win the New York Critics’ Choice Award. The film version of the play debuted in 1961, starring Sidney Poitier and received an award at the Cannes Festival that same year. In 1963, Lorraine became active in the Civil Rights Movement along with many renowned Black People such as Lena Horne, James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, and others. She joined SNCC in 1962 and met with the Attorney General Robert Kennedy along with James Baldwin to see where he stood on the issue of Civil Rights. That same year, her second play The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window opened on Broadway but it was not as well received as A Raisin In the Sun.
Lorraine met and married to Jewish songwriter, Robert Nemiroff in 1953 at a protest against racial discrimination at New York University. They divorced in 1962, but continued to work together. Lorraine was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1964. She passed away on January 12, 1965 at age 35. Six hundred people attended her funeral in Harlem and James Baldwin said of her:
Her going did not so much make me lonely as make me realize how lonely we were.
Lorraine had a few incomplete works at the time of her death such as “Toussaint,” an opera, “All the Dark and Beautiful Warriors,” an autobiographical novel. She also wanted to write plays about the Pharaoh Akhenaton, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Charles Chesnutt’s “The Marrow of Tradition” (1901). After hear death, Robert adapted and collected a collection of her unpublished writings, speeches, and interviews in an autobiographical montage, To be Young, Gifted, and Black, which James Baldwin wrote the introduction, “Sweet Lorraine.” He also edited and published her three unfinished plays, Les Blancs, The Drinking Gourd, and What Use Are Flowers? Robert named her autobiographical montage after a line in her speech given at the May 1964 United Negro Fund Writing competition. She said to the winners:
“…though it be thrilling and marvelous thing to be merely young and gifted in such times, it is doubly so, doubly dynamic, to be young, gifted and black!”
Lorraine’s play, A Raisin In the Sun, is considered a classic on the American stage and continues to draw audiences in the decades since her death. Television versions of the play won Emmy nominations in 1989 and 2008. The play won praises from Broadway and won two Tony awards in 2004 and 2014 including best revival of a play.
I salute this AMAZING HER-story making sista!
“Lorraine Hansberry.” Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 102015.
“Lorraine Hansberry-Pioneer African-American Playwright.” Women’s History, About Education, 2015. Retrieved from http://womenshistory.about.com/od/aframerwriters/p/hansberry
“Lorraine Hansberry Biography.” Chicago Public Library, 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from http://www.chipublib.org/lorraine-hansberry-biography/
This is the likeness of Egyptian Queen Neferneferuaten Nefertiti. Her full name means, ” Beautiful are the beauties of Aten, the beautiful one has cometh” and she has been regarded as “the most beautiful woman in the world.” She was born sometime before 1370 B.C. in Thebes, Egypt. Much is not known about Nefertiti’s family or background, but she is believed to be the daughter of Ay, a high-ranking advisor who became king after King Tut’s death in 1332 B.C. or she may have been a princess from Mitanni Kingdom in Northern Syria. Nefertiti was the Great Royal Wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV). She has many other titles such as Hereditary Princess, Great of Praises, Sweet of Love, Lady of Two Lands, Main King’s Wife, his beloved, Great King’s Wife, his beloved, Lady of All Women, and Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt. The dates in which Nefertiti married Akhenaten and became queen is unknown. She and Akhenaten had six daughters, Marintaten, Meketaten, Ankhesenpaaten (a.k.a. Ankhesennamen and Queen to King Tut), Neferneferuaten Tasherit, Neferneferure, and Setepenre. Nefertiti and Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) ruled Egypt from 1353 to 1336 B.C.
During their reign, Akhenaten reformed Egypt’s religious and political structure around the monotheistic worship of the Egyptian sun-god Aten. Akhenaten moved the capital North to Amarna and changed his name from Amenhotep to Akhenaten. Nefertiti added an additional name Neferneferuaten. Nefertiti is found in many affectionate poses (more than any other Egyptian queen, past and present) with her husband on the walls and temples built during their reign. She is also shown in powerful positions, such as leading the worship of Aten, driving a chariot, or smiting an enemy.
Around the 12th year of her husband’s 17-year reign, Nefertiti mysteriously disappears from historical record. She may have died or she may have become official co-regent to Akhenaten under her full name, Neferneferuaten Nefertiti. Some historians theorize that Akhenaten’s successor Pharaoh Smenkhkare was Nefertiti herself, which was not unusual because the female pharaoh Hatshepsut ruled Egypt disguised as a man donning a ceremonial false beard. Nefertiti passed away sometime before 1330 B.C.
Nefertiti’s 3,300 year old limestone bust was discovered by German archaeologist, Ludwig Borchardt on December 6, 1913. Nefertiti’s bust is one of the most copied ancient Egyptian artifacts. The sculpture was found buried upside down in sandy rubble on the excavation site of ancient Egyptian sculptor Thutmose’s workshop in Amarna. Thutmose crafted the bust around 1345 B.C. Nefertiti’s bust has a slender neck, gracefully well proportioned face, and an extravagant blue cylindrical headpiece only seen on Nefertiti’s images. The discovery of Nefertiti’s bust made Nefertiti one of the most famous women in the ancient world and an icon of feminine beauty. Her bust is currently on display at the Berlin Neues Museum, Berlin Germany.
I salute this HER-story making sista!
“Nefertiti.” History.com, A&E Networks. Web. 2015 April 13. Retrieved http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/nefertiti
“Nefertiti Bust”. Wikipedia.org, Wikipedia.: The Free Encyclopedia. Web. 2015 April 16. Retrieved from http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nefertiti_Bust