Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Black History Month

This weekend, American Shani Davis became the first African American to win an individual gold medal at a winter Olympics. Let me just say I found it quite appropriate that he made this history during Black History Month.

Which brings me to honoring other great African Americans. I look up a great deal to Black women. Nothing against men, of course, but the feminist in me is drawn to the strong women who work hard to overcome the "double bourden" of their race and gender. And not just to overcome it, but celebrate who they are as well.

Two of my favorite African American women in history are Ida B. Wells Barnett and Fannie Lou Hamer.

Wells-Barnett was banned from the South in the late 1800s when she used her journalist credentials to expose lynching. She later became a charter member of the NAACP, female suffragist, and American leader. My favorite Ida anecdote: When NAWSA and the National Woman's Party refused to let Black women march with them in the famous 1919 suffrage parade, Wells did something extremely brave. She and a few other Black suffragists stood at a bend in the road, where the parade could not continue without them. She stepped in the parade and marched with the others until the end.

Hamer, one of twenty children in a sharecropping family, was called a "latter-day female Ghandi." She first became involved in the Civil Rights movement through SNCC in voter registration after attempting to vote, in her 40s, for the first time. Her accomplishments are limitless, including food and clothing drives, running for senator, organizing projects to help poor, rural African Americans, and encouraging womens' involvement in Civil Rights. What I find most inspiring about Hamer is her drive, her desire to secure freedoms and respect at a later point in life, her sheer courage to defy her position.

My list goes on, but here's to also celebrating the people we don't know about, whose low-profile contributions to history are invaluable.

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