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Black History and Women

People and Events in African American and African Women's History

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Women are half the human race, and they're half of black history, as well. Here are some highlights bringing together black history and women's history. Scroll through this list to find timelines of African American history and women, biographies of African American women, African women rulers, and more.

Basics of African American Women's History

Power drill operator working on a Vengeance dive bomber at the World War II Vultee-Nashville plant.
Courtesy Library of Congress, Alfred T. Palmer, photographer.
Here are some resources that will get you started quickly in learning about and exploring the history of African American women. The timeline will show the events and individuals in historical context, and the ever-growing list of biographies will introduce you to some powerful and interesting individuals. If you want to test your knowledge of African American women's history, try the quiz.

African American Women in Colonial and Revolutionary America

Phillis Wheatley
© 1999-2007 Clipart.com, used with permission
The early Europeans brought Africans with them to the Americas, and it was not long before the institution of slavery was established in what would become the United States. When the laws changed so that, for those of African ancestry, servitude followed the condition of the mother, not the father, the system of chattel slavery had begun. The story of African American women in these times is mostly of women without names. Phillis Wheatley is one, but not the only, exception to this enforced anonymity.

Slavery and Abolitionism

Harriet Tubman
Courtesy Library of Congress

The United States declared itself a free nation and that every citizen had a right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" -- but also accepted the institution of slavery. Women were quite active in the abolitionist movement. White women came out of their domestic sphere to work against the enslavement of others. Black women spoke from their experience, bringing their story to audiences to elicit empathy and action.

Key Figures:

Changing Times

Maggie Lena Walker
Courtesy National Park Service
As the Civil War ended, and slaves were freed, the lives of African Americans were changing. Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws, civil rights progress and regression, educational and other opportunities, social reform: here are highlights and key figures in women's history from the end of the Civil War until just before the founding of the NAACP.

Pictures:

Key Figures:

Good Times, Bad Times

Mary McLeod Bethune
Courtesy Library of Congress, Carl Van Vechten, photographer
From the NAACP to the Harlem Renaissance, African American presence in America blossomed. The Great Depression brought hard times, and World War II and the post-war period brought new challenges and involvements.

Harlem Renaissance:

More Key Figures:

Civil Rights and Breaking Barriers

Rosa Parks
Courtesy Library of Congress
In the 1950s and 1960s, and into the 1970s, the civil rights movement took historical center stage. African American women had key roles in that movement, in the "second wave" of the women's rights movement, and, as barriers fell, in making cultural contributions to American society.

Key Figures:

1980s and 1990s

Mae Jemison
Courtesy NASA
The last two decades of the century brought reverses in affirmative action but more openings for African Americans and women.

Key Figures:

African Women

Nefertiti of Egypt
© 1999-2007 Clipart.com, used with permission
Some claim that Nefertiti and Cleopatra are among the queens of black history; whether they are or not, there are other women of (black) African history who are interesting and important to remember. Here are a few:

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