BUILD HONORS AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN IN PUBLIC SERVICE AND GOVERNMENT
March is Women’s History Month. The National Women’s History Alliance selects and publishes the yearly theme, and this year it is the same as last year: “Valiant Women of the Vote.” It is appropriate to carry this theme forward considering the historic role Black women played in the recent elections. This includes the election of Kamala Harris. Harris is the first Black woman, the first Indian-American woman, the first person of Asian-American descent, and the first graduate of a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to be sworn in as the Vice President of the United States. As she said in her acceptance speech, “(she) may be the first, but (she) will not be the last.”
Vice President Kamala Harris; Barbara Jordan, First African American Congresswoman to come from the deep South; Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Abolitionist and pioneering newspaper publisher; Ida B. Wells, Author and Civil Rights Activist; Fannie Lou Hamer, Oratory and civil rights activist; and Stacey Abrams (D-GA), Political and social activist.
This is especially true when you have Black women like Stacey Abrams (D-GA), engaged in the effort. Abrams was very close to becoming the nation’s first Black Female Governor! She founded Fair Fight Action, an organization to address voter suppression, in 2018. Her efforts have been widely credited with boosting voter turnout in Georgia, including in the 2020 presidential election, where Joe Biden won the state, and in Georgia's 2020–21 U.S. Senate election and special election, which gave Democrats control over the Senate. In 2021, Abrams was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her extraordinary work in the 2020 election.
In addition, the theme of Valiant Women and the Vote honors "the brave women who fought to win suffrage rights for women, and for the women who continue to fight for the voting rights of others." When speaking of prominent African American pioneers, one woman that should be mentioned is Barbara Jordan, a U.S. congressional representative from Texas and the first African American congresswoman from the Deep South. Known for her commitment to ethics and her impressive oratory skills, she helped shaped the political landscape with her dedication to the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution.
It has been over a 100 years since the 19th Amendment legalized women’s right to vote. In recognition of Women’s History Month, Blacks United In Leadership and Diversity (BUILD), remains steadfast in highlighting achievements, especially that of African American Women and others of Color. Famous 19th century stalwarts such as Mary Ann Shadd Cary, abolitionist and pioneering publisher, Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, better known as Ida B. Wells, African American writer and activist famous for her work campaigning against lynching in the South, and 20th century pioneer Fannie Lou Hamer, powerful public speaker who fought tirelessly for the rights of African Americans to vote safely, despite the danger to her life.
African American / Black Women in America particularly, gained the right to vote long after their African American Male counterparts had already been exercising this right. In their sustained fight to combat ingrained racism, crippling levels of poverty, and sub-standard living conditions, Black women have always worked together (and with allies from all walks of life), to organize community-based cultures of resistance -- fighting for employment, a living wage, dignity, equal representation, and political leadership.
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