African-American women were written out of the history of the woman suffrage movement. As the centennial of the 19th Amendment approaches, it’s time for a new look at the past.
By Brent Staples
Americans are being forced to choose between a cherished lie and a disconcerting truth as they prepare to celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment in 2020. While middle-class white women celebrated with ticker tape parades, black women in the former Confederacy were being defrauded by voting registrars or were driven away from registration offices under threat of violence. Read the article here.
Alexa Canady Surgeon, Educator (1950–)
In 1981, Alexa Canady became the first female African-American neurosurgeon in the United States. Dr. Alexa Canady was born on November 7, 1950, in Lansing, Michigan. While she was in college, a summer program inspired her to pursue a medical career. In 1981, she became the first female African-American neurosurgeon in the United States. Canady specialized as a pediatric neurosurgeon and served as chief of neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital in Michigan from 1987 to 2001.
Meet Bessie Blount Griffin, a physical therapist, inventor, and forensic scientist who invented an electronic feeding device in 1951 to help amputees feed themselves. She also invented the cardboard disposable emesis basis.
A physical therapist working with wounded soldiers during World War II, Griffin realized that soldiers struggled with feeding themselves. She programmed a tube to deliver one bite of a meal at a time to a disabled patient. Whenever he or she was prepared for the next bite, the patient would bite down on the tube. She later simplified her invention so that it could be fit in a brace around a person’s neck, and accomplish the same function. Skeptical, the American Veterans Administration did not accept Griffin’s invention. She sold the patent and rights to the French government, who supported the large-scale production of her invention so that it could reach those in need. Read the entire article here.
Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt movement in Kenya in 1977, which has planted more than 10 million trees to prevent soil erosion and provide firewood for cooking fires. A 1989 United Nations report noted that only 9 trees were being replanted in Africa for every 100 that were cut down, causing serious problems with deforestation: soil runoff, water pollution, difficulty finding firewood, lack of animal nutrition, etc.
The program has been carried out primarily by women in the villages of Kenya, who through protecting their environment and through the paid employment for planting the trees are able to better care for their children and their children’s future.
Born in 1940 in Nyeri, Wangari Maathai was able to pursue higher education, a rarity for girls in rural areas of Kenya. Studying in the United States, she earned her biology degree from Mount St. Scholastica College in Kansas and a master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh. Read her entire story here.
Charlotte Forten was born into a prominent African American family in Philadelphia. Her father, Robert, was the son of James Forten (1766-1842), was a businessman and antislavery activist who was a leader in Philadelphia’s free black community, and his wife, also named Charlotte, identified in census records as “mulatto.” The elder Charlotte, along with her three daughters Margaretta, Harriet and Sarah, were founding members of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society along with Sarah Mapps Douglass and 13 other women; Lucretia Mott and Angelina Grimké were later members of the biracial organization as was Mary Wood Forten, Robert Forten’s wife and mother of the younger Charlotte Forten. August 17, 1837 (or 1838) – July 23, 1914 Read the entire article here.