As the social climate in the United States takes dramatic shifts, it’s a pertinent time to reflect back on the contributions of Black women.
Black women have been under a lot of oppression in history. For years, highly capable women of colour have been unable to participate due to racism and other issues. Now, it’s time for them to start leading.
Black Women Are Highly Educated
The Reconstruction Era was the period after the U.S. Civil War intended to rebuild the South and to appoint liberties to former slaves who had previously been given no rights. This is where black Americans were first allowed the opportunity to earn an education without punishment. But the school system would remain segregated for almost another hundred years.
These colored schools did not meet the same standards as their white counterparts, causing generations of social hindrances and setbacks. Even as blacks, in general, became more scholarly, it was still considered unappealing for women to seek higher education, as it was believed that their place was at home. But over the last half of the century, black females have been doing diligence in making up for the loss.
Black women, today, are far surpassing black men in their college pursuits. Among Black students in higher education, women are more likely than males to earn degrees, getting, reportedly, “64.1% of bachelor’s degrees, 71.5% of master’s degrees and 65.9% of advanced degrees.” Black women also outnumber the percentage of other races receiving postsecondary degrees.
Black Women Have Better Selfless Ambitions
Traditional values were core to the survival of the black family unit, but the most difficult times put a lot of weight on the shoulders of the women. Even though men were usually the head of the household, historically, women had to bear the responsibility of caring for their struggling homes and their members. Even as those foundations started to crumble, with diminished assistance, black women held the heavy burden of being the rock of their communities, as the social structure of the American family continues to change.
Black women are more likely to sacrifice their own livelihood to support the ambitions of others. Many acknowledgements of their efforts have gone neglected and unrecognized. Especially during the civil rights movement, when they fought against social injustices during the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Black women played a key role in fighting for the freedoms of their fathers, brothers, and sons that they would not, themselves, directly get to benefit from. The pressures of facing both racism and sexism have been physically and mentally detrimental. And unfortunately, they are also amongst the group of people least likely to have access to excellent healthcare and other wellness opportunities.
Black Women Are Overcoming Racism
Even after slavery ended, the tensions and misunderstandings between blacks and whites would remain. People still believed they were too different to be allowed in the same spaces, and both groups remained highly segregated for years to come. Pools, drinking fountains, gatherings, and most if not all aspects of life were divided based on skin color. One of the most problematic was the separation of schools.
Unfortunately, the split would do continuous harm in encouraging racism. Often negative stereotypes or bad assumptions would rise out of the disconnect. Black people — black women, in particular — were often painted with a very aggressive and uneducated brush. These adverse and unfavorable opinions have caused a range of grievous and painful repercussions that plague black people in the United States.
Even today, in popular culture, black women are often portrayed as angry and unagreeable. This unprofessional representation leads to limited work opportunities, diminished expectations, and lower pay.
Black Women Are Successful Even From the Past
With a load of struggle and in the face of diversity, many intellectual Black women of the past and present continue to make strides toward progress and growth in their communities.
Mary McLeod Bethune was one of the first female black activists in the United States. Raised in the segregated South, she knew that education was imperative to the betterment of black people. She became a teacher, and in 1904, founded the Daytona Educational and the National Council of Negro Women. She also served in public administration under Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Alice Walker is a writer and poet who, while blind in one eye, used the power of words to explain the intricacies of the Black female strife. She became the first African-American woman awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her outstanding and emotional novel, about the difficult life of a black teenage girl raised in rural Georgia in the early 20th century. “The Color Purple” would become a staple in American culture and entertainment.
In 1968, the first Black woman was elected to Congress. Shirley Chisholm served fourteen years as a representative from New York and ran for president as a Democrat in 1972. She was one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus and later the Congressional Women’s Caucus. Her focus was advocating early education and developing child welfare policies.
Maya Angelou was an artist and, arguably, one of the best-known poets from the United States. Her notable 1969 memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” was the first nonfiction bestseller by an African American woman. She has received more than 30 honorary degrees and, in 2010, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Black Women Fight
Poverty and the scuffles of society have left a pockmark on the American Black female. They have had to fight for their civil liberties and the freedom of others before their own. They have fought hard for the right to a high-quality education, and though they are increasingly matriculated into institutions of higher learning, Black women are still most likely to work in the lowest-paying jobs. They are rarely found or encouraged to study within the fields of technical careers in STEM, such as engineering or computers.
The alienation of strong community support and limited resources has created a weakened family foundation and left many black homes broken in the United States. Poor social structures and struggling environments leave many Black women exposed to harsh living conditions. The stresses of carrying so many painful responsibilities have resulted in ailments such as hypertension and other physical and mental conditions.
Even in the face of strife, Black women continue to empower and excel. They are selflessly paving the way to hopefully change the scope for future generations and turn around the painful history of their ancestors.