Voting Rights and Women's Suffrage - How African American Women Revolutionized The Fight For Representation.
Tuesday, November 3rd, is Election Day. Today I have the right to vote, only due to the actions of historical precedent. Skin color and gender no longer preclude American citizens from participating in our democracy. African American women played a crucial part in the suffrage movement. This month, I’ll be briefly covering a few notable Black women whose courage, strength, and tenacity paved the way to a more equitable world.
Sojourner Truth, born in 1797, was the first known African American suffragist. “Truth,” an emancipated slave, was an enigmatic preacher from Ulster County, New York. Throughout her life, she traveled the Eastern United States, attending women’s rights conventions as a proponent of women’s rights and suffrage. In 1851 Sojourner Truth delivered a captivating speech at Ohio’s women’s convention titled “Ain’t I a Woman,” which skyrocketed her reputation as a fighter for women’s rights. “Truth” did not have a typical education; she was illiterate, but that did not define her intelligence or character. In 1864 she traveled to Washington D.C. and had a meeting with then-President Lincoln at the White House. Later in life, Sojourner Truth became a lecturer in Battle Creek, Michigan, where she lived in a town made up of free Blacks until her passing in 1883.
Harriet Forten Purvis, a Pennsylvania native, was born in 1810. As a first-generation suffragist, she helped create the first biracial women’s abolitionist group, “Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society.” Purvis and her husband built and ran an underground railways station in their home at 9th and Lombard Street in Philadelphia. Together they assisted 9000 runaway slaves along their journey to Canada. Harriet was a member of the National Woman Suffrage Association and had a close friendship with Susan B. Anthony.
When we look at these two women and examples, they showcased that voting today is more accessible than past situations. Many African American women put forth the work that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson during the civil rights movement’s peak on August 6 of that year. For the general populace, many learn about Black History during a single month when our race’s contributions extended to multiple facets of activism. The fight for the right to vote is just one part of that.
ASD doesn’t preclude someone from working in politics either. Jessica Benham, an autistic woman, ran and won district 36 in my city this election cycle. She showcased that we, too, have the political acumen to shape policy.
History has taught us that the right to vote shouldn’t be taken for granted. It doesn’t just impact us during Presidential years; it has a more significant impact on local elections and policies we can
see on the local level. So my ardent wish is for people to get registered to vote and get involved on the local level. You have the power to impact change.