Project Category: Black Women

Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune was born in 1875 in South Carolina to former slaves. She was one of 17 children and was the only child in her family to go to school. She attended college in North Carolina and then Chicago. After college she returned to the south and began her career as an educator. She founded what is now Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Florida. Mary was an activist and advisor to several U.S. Presidents, most notably Franklin D. Roosevelt, for whom she was a special advisor on minority affairs. In 1973, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

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Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman became the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad. She began helping to free slaves, making over 19 trips into the South bringing her passengers back safely, never losing a single one. Her diligent efforts earned her the nickname “Moses”. During her work, she met many leaders including Frederick Douglass, John Brown, and Sojourner Truth. After the break out of the Civil War in 1861, Harriet Tubman returned to the south to care for the thousands of slaves who had been abandoned as well as injured soldiers.

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Madam C.J. Walker

MADAM C.J. WALKER WAS BORN IN 1867 AS SARAH BREEDLOVE TO FORMER SLAVES IN LOUISIANA. SHE WAS THE FIRST FREE BORN CHILD IN HER FAMILY. SHE WAS ORPHANED AT AGE SEVEN AND MOVED TO ST. LOUIS. HERE SHE WORKED SELLING HAIR CARE PRODUCTS. SHE MARRIED CHARLES WALKER AND STARTED HER OWN HAIR PRODUCT COMPANY AS MADAM C.J. WALKER. HER PRODUCT LINE QUICKLY BECAME POPULAR ACROSS THE UNITED STATES. SHE WAS THE FIRST AMERICAN WOMEN TO BECOME A SELF-MADE MILLIONAIRE AND ALL DURING THE JIM CROW SOUTH ERA. MADAM WALKER GAVE LARGE PORTIONS OF HER PROFITS TO BLACK CHARITIES.

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Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree in upstate New York. She was born A slave, but in 1826 escaped with her infant daughter to freedom. In 1843 Isabella changed her name to Sojourner Truth as a reflection of her devotion to African-American freedom and women’s rights. She was a powerful and impassioned speaker. Her best-known speechon racial inequalities, “Ain’t I a Woman?” was delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. Although she began her career as an abolitionist, the reform causes she supported were broad and varied, including prison reform, property rights and universal voting rights.

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