BEYOND FRANCES: BLACK SUFFRAGIST HEROES
IDA B. WELLS
Wells was born in Mississippi in 1862, and later went on to work as a teacher and to study at Fisk university. Wells' became and activist and writer after suing a railroad company for making her move off of a first class train for which she had purchased a ticket. Her open desire for social change attracted threats on her life in her home community in Mississippi, prompting Wells to move to New York and then Chicago. There, she (along with Belle Squire, a white woman) started the Alpha Suffrage Club, which was a safe space in which black women were encouraged to learn about politics and pursue equal rights. In 1909, Wells helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
"I'd rather go down in history as one lone Negro who dared to tell
the government that it had done a bastardly thing than
to save my skin by taking back what I said."
HARRIET FORTEN PURVIS
Harriet Forten Purvis was born in Philadelphia in 1810, a member of the most powerful and affluent black family in the city. Working with her husband, Robert Purvis, she formed the Vigilance Society, to protect escaped enslaved people from capture, even through race riots that occurred throughout the 1830s. In 1833, Purvis helped to found the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, the country's first abolitionist group for both black and white women. Over the course of her life, Harriet Forten Purvis continued to work as both an Abolitionist and a Suffragist, and became a key leader in the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia, the Free Produce Movement, and the National Woman Suffrage Association.
"I was heard with respect."
Sojourner Truth (born Isabella Baumfree), was born into slavery in New York in the late 1700s, and was sold and resold several times. After running away, Truth was falsely accused of murder, and she subsequently sued for slander and changed her name. Despite not being able to read or write, she gave her famous "Ain't I a Woman" speech at the 1851 Ohio Women's Rights Convention. Unlike abolitionist Frederick Douglass and Suffragette Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner truth believed that black men and women should be granted the right to vote at the same time. Throughout her life, Truth worked tirelessly for a range of causes, including prison reform, property rights, and universal suffrage. She is widely regarded as one of the most important human rights activists in history.
"If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn
the world upside down all alone, these women ought to be
able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now
they is asking to do it, the men better let them."
MARY CHURCH TERRELL
Mary Church Terrell grew up in Tennessee in the 1860s, and went to Oberlin College, making her one of the first Black women to get a college degree. After getting her Masters and working as an educator, Terrell went on to help found the National Association of Colored Women, and became the group's first president. She spoke out about the intersection of race and gender throughout her life, and even lived to see the end of the Brown v. Board of Education case. In 1940, she published her autobiography, A cColored Woman in a White World, which was groundbreaking in sharing the experiences of a back woman with the larger public.