Celebrating Black women this Black History Month
Christina Greer Ph.D. | 2/11/2021, midnight
I am currently writing a manuscript detailing the careers and legacies of Barbara Jordan, Fannie Lou Hamer and Stacey Abrams. I decided to dedicate this Black History Month to learning more about Black women who have changed the course of history with their activism, intellect, talent, organizational skills, oratory skills, passion and sheer determination. Far too often, the labor of Black women is taken for granted or ignored completely. We must create the Black History Month we desire. We create the knowledge we want to share with our children and our communities. It is up to us to lay that foundation since our state level and federal level education are often woefully complicit in erasing the accomplishments of Black women from the history books.
For those who may not know, Barbara Jordan was the second Black woman elected to U.S. Congress. Shirley Chisholm (NY) was first elected in 1968 and Barbara Jordan (Texas) was elected in 1972, becoming the first Black woman elected from the U.S. South. The northern versus southern divide is important to note due to the aggressive racism and segregation practiced in Texas during that time.
Fannie Lou Hamer is known to many as a voting rights organizer from the state of Mississippi. A working class woman who challenged the U.S. government and began a southern movement of voter enfranchisement and economic uplift. Ms. Hamer even ran for public office on her own political party. Although she was not successful at the ballot box, the seeds she planted throughout the south are still felt today as Blacks continue to fight for political incorporation.
Stacey Abrams is best known for turning Georgia blue in 2020 and helping to deliver two U.S. senators on Jan. 5, 2021. However, the work of Stacey Abrams began several years ago as she continued the legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer and built a grassroots infrastructure throughout her state (and several other states across the country, we can also thank her for the wins in Arizona and New Mexico).
These are just three Black women who have made this country (and this world) a much more equitable place. When we celebrate the accomplishments of Black people this month, let’s be intentional about raising and uplifting the work of Black women who are sometimes erased or ignored. We must look around our own communities and homes and really see the amazing foundations being laid by extraordinary Black women every day. From politicians to front line workers, to nurses, to housekeeping staff, to teachers, to literally every Black woman who wakes up each morning and fights against racism and patriarchy in many aspects of their lives. This column is dedicated to Black women who carry communities on their shoulders every day, thank you.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream”, and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC and also What’s In It For Us podcast.