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Political Activism Through 1950

The Negro Woman

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman, a leading abolitionist, was the head of the Underground Railroad movement that led hundreds of enslaved African Americans to freedom. Harriet’s earlier life as a slave was filled with hardships that effected her for the rest of her life. After being separated from three of her sisters, Harriet faced daily physical abuse from her slave owners. The treatment she received resulted in life long permanent injuries such as seizures, severe headaches and narcoleptic episodes, a condition in which the brain losses the ability to regulate normal sleep/wake cycles. Her condition often made her experience intense dream states, which she described as deep religious experiences.

Despite her disabilities, Harriet remained devoted to her works of activism against slavery. After receiving notice of the illness and death of her slave owner, Harriet escaped slavery for the first time in 1849. Fearing for the safety of her family because of her actions, she returned for her two brothers Ben and Henry and had successfully left Maryland. However once a reward for the three escaped slaves came about, Ben and Harry feared their freedom and returned back to the plantation. Harriet on the other hand, had no plans of returning back to bondage and persevered to Pennsylvania.

For many years to come, Harriet served as the leader of the runaway passage known as the Underground Railroad. Stretching about 90 miles, Harriet continuously freed slaves to the northern state of Philadelphia.

Harriet Tubman photo from American Magazine p423 (group A)

The Famous Harriet Tubman

She is one of the world’s most remembered Women’s Political Activism because she overcame a lot of difficult tasks. For example; In 1850 the Fugitive Slave Law passed. The law stated that any escaped slaves could be captured in the North and returned to their former status, which is “Slavery”, leading to the abduction of former slaves and free blacks living in Free states. Did Tubman stop rebelling against slavery? No, she simply re-routed the Underground Railroad to Canada, where they prohibited slavery categorically. Not only was Harriet Tubman the most successful conductor of the Underground Railroad, she was also an important asset because she made the system work and provided the hope of freedom for southern slaves.  

Harriet Tubman was the first woman to lead an assault during the Civil War. In the 1860s Tubman worked with Colonel James Montgomery and other soldiers to help bring down the Confederate rebels. Harriet Tubman freed over 700 slaves from the state North Carolina.

After the Civil War: Tubman soon became involved in the woman’s suffrage movement. “Gave speeches in NYC, Boston & Washington” Though she was not finically secure she eventually donated her property to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Auburn, NY to make a home for aged and penniless color people.  

Tubman was well respected and loved while she was alive. Looking back at history Harriet Tubman is the most famous civilian in American history before the Civil War. When she passed away she was buried with military honors at Fort Hill Cemetery located in Auburn. Throughout the nation she is celebrated in many ways such schools being named after her. Her home and the Harriet Tubman Museum stand as monuments to her life, and the US Maritime Commission named its first Liberty Ship after her.

Mary Church Terrell

Mary Church Terrell

Born in 1863, Mary Church Terrell was one of the first African American women to earn a college degree. Throughout her life, she served her community through leadership positions and activism. Terrell grew close to Frederick Douglass after she met him, and Booker T. Washington through her father. After getting married she thought about leaving activism, but Douglass convinced her that her talents were needed.

In 1896, Terrell served as the first president of the National Association of Colored Women, and founded the National Association of College Women. She was the Principal of a Washington, D.C. school, and through her achievements she was appointed to the District of Columbia Board of Education--the first black women to hold such a position.

In 1909, Terrell was one of two women invited to attend the first NAACP meeting, becoming a founding member. Terrell was also involved in the War Camp Community Service group, which aided in issues that were important to African American servicemen who were a wounded veteran. Terrell was also a delegate for the International Peace Conference in England, actively fought for women’s suffrage, and was president of the Women’s Republican League. Although she had many achievements, and had such a great impact on society through her activism, Terrell identified herself as a writer using the pen name “Euphemia Kirk.”

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin was born on August 31, 1842 in Boston, Massachusetts to a rich family. The first thing that makes Ruffin stand out in her era besides all of her accomplishments, was the fact that she was birthed to an interracial family. Since Ruffin was mixed with black and white, her parents sent her away for school in Salem, Massachusetts where they had integrated schools. She later graduated from a finishing school in Boston.

When the Civil War started, she volunteered her time to the Home Guard. After the work she accomlished there, it made her want to help support the black soldiers and their families after the war. So, in 1879 she organized the Boston Kansas Relief Association, which helped color people move to the state of Kansas.

Ruffin did not stop there with creating organizations. In 1893, a member club of the National Association of Color Women was founded and headed by Ruffin. During this time it was known as the Women’s New Era Club.

The following year, the Women’s New Era Club issued their first newspaper titled, "The Women’s Era Newspaper", and Ruffin was the editor. The whole purpose of this new club that Ruffin created was to help educate black women about morals, hygiene, and other things that the community needed.

By 1895, she switched her activist goals to another level. She began her fight for Civil Rights, and her first push for equality was in Atlanta, Georgia at the Atlanta Exposition, where she refused to be a part of their segregated activities.

Ruffin relates to the topic of political women before 1950, because she held powerful positions in every organization she was in and from those positions she pushed for progression for blacks. This led to the modern-day movements that got African Americans were they are today. 

Sojourner Truth (group 1)

Sojourner Truth

"Ain't I a Woman?"

This speech is by Sojourner Truth.  She was born as Isabella Baumfree before changing her name in 1843.  Her speech “Ain’t I a Woman” was given on May 29, 1851 at the Women’s Right Convention in Akron, Ohio.  In this speech she basically describes some things she does and some characteristics about herself.  She then compares these characteristics and things she does to the stereotypes of women at time. 

Some of these things include working the fields and engaging in manual labor.  She also describes many of the things that she has done which are the same as what men did.  Sojourner describes things such as eating as much and working as much as men.   After she makes these comparisons she always asks the crowd “Ain’t I a Womans?”.  By stating this several times throughout her speech she is able to get her point across that women can do the same things as men and therefore deserve the same rights.  To further to get her point her point across she attacks some of the points that men have used in order to establish why women should not have the same rights.  She discusses how a man used the point that women shouldn’t have the same rights because Christ wasn’t a woman.  She explains how Christ came from a woman and that man had nothing to do with him.