We Speak Their Names: Black Women Abolitionists, A Juneteenth Celebration

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Let textbooks tell it, the only Black women abolitionist there ever was is our great ancestor Harriet Tubman. Now, Sister Harriet was phoenix, a maverick, a world changer, but she was NOT alone. She was in the number of Black women who spoke truth to power in ways that would make you weep with joy and inspiration.

On this Juneteenth, we speak the names of 4 Black women abolitionists you may not have heard of, but who absolutely helped light the path for us all. May their courage live in us.

Frances E. W. Harper

Sarah Parker Redmond

Elizabeth Freeman

Sojourner Truth

We speak their names. We speak their names. 

We speak their names. Join us.

Frances E. W. Harper

Listen to Dear Black Women founder Florence Noel (Flo) read Sister Frances captivating poem, "Bury Me in a Free Land".

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Ancestor Frances E. W. Harper was a bad, bad woman. Born in 1825 in Baltimore, Maryland, she was an abolitionist, suffragist, poet, author, organizer and leader. A prolific writer, Sister Frances published her first book of verse, "Forest of the Leaves", at the tender age of 20. In fact, she was the first Black woman in the United States to publish a short story, "Two Offers" (1859). Throughout her career, she focused her literary genius on bringing voice to the experiences of Black people. In her most famous poem, "Bury Me in a Free Land", she describes the evil of slavery, as well as her deep conviction to be buried in land where there is no slavery. 

Sister Frances' activism was expansive. She assisted Black folks traveling the Underground Railroad to freedom. And in 1858, 100 years before Sister Rosa Parks, she refused to give up her seat and ride in the "colored" section of the Philadelphia trolley. For decades, she led a number of organizations for the advancement of Black folks. Until 1896, when she decided to launch her own organization, National Association of Colored Women, alongside Sister Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells and others. |

So much more on Sister Frances here and here.


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Elizabeth Freeman

Ancestor Elizabeth Freeman was born approximately 1742 in Claverack, New York. For the first 40 years of her life, she was enslaved in Massachusetts. One day, the wife of her slave owner tried to hit Sister Elizabeth's sister with a heated shovel. Sister Elizabeth intervened and, as a result, sustained a significant arm injury. At this time, she was hearing talk of the Bill of Rights and other ideals that compelled her to seek her own freedom. Infuriated by the abuse, she escaped from slavery and sought legal counsel, which led to the case of Broom & Bett vs Ashley, a case challenging the legality of slavery in Massachusetts.

She won.

This, our Sister Elizabeth's, monumental case set a precedence for the abolition of slavery in the entire state of Massachusetts. |

So much more on Sister Elizabeth here and here.


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Sarah Parker Redmond

Ancestor Sarah Parker Redmond was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1815. She was international anti-slavery lecturer who brought her unwavering message of Black freedom to states throughout the United States and countries across the globe. Sister Sarah was a brilliant and brave speaker who named the sexual exploitation Black women faced under the evil institution of slavey, as well as challenged economic systems reliant on the free labor of slaves. A strategist, she raised exorbitant amounts of money for abolitionist efforts and used her brilliance to advance the suffragist movement, too. Sister Sarah also was not limited by ageism and narrowed ambitions. At the age of 41, she moved to Italy and pursued medicine. Once a doctor, she practiced medicine in Florence, Italy for 20 years. What can't Black women do when resources are available? |

So much more on Sister Sarah here and here.

 


Sojourner Truth

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Many of us know the speech "Ain't I A Woman" by our Ancestor Sojourner Truth, but not much else. Let's fix that, because her story is one that should be known by all. Born in Swartekill, New York in 1797, Sister Sojourner lived life as an abolitionist and women's rights activist. 6 feet tall with a Dutch accent and powerful voice, Sister Sojourner's was a force to be reckoned with.

She escaped from slavery in 1826 and, shortly after, had a religious experience that transformed her. She became even more convicted to do work to advance the cause of Black freedom and women's rights. This conviction led her across the country as an anti-slavery and suffragist speaker. During the Civil War, she worked to support soldiers and advocated on behalf of free Black people to Abraham Lincoln

Her conviction also led her to be the first Black woman to take a white man to court and beat him. In 1828, Sister Sojourner learned that one of her sons (she had 5 children) was sold into slavery after the evil institution was outlawed in New York. She sued the person who sold her son and, after months of proceedings, won.  While her "Ain't I A Woman" speech was one seminole moment in American history, her entire life and life's work offered a countless moments that we can be proud of.|

So much more on Sister Sojourner here and here.