With Black History Month behind us and Women’s History month coming to an end, it is an appropriate time to call attention to the intersectional pioneers who deserves more credit than they may have gotten.
In this past month I have researched a few of the women in the struggle for human rights. They each have their own story and we do not want those stories to be lost. One common trait they had in common, regardless of their cause or profession, was their burning determination. I learned a lot from their personal stories and gained a few insights. Most all the women that were reported on, fought for several causes. When slavery was abolished, they demanded the vote and control over their bodies, then them wanted equal rights in the workplace; they did not give up!
This speaks to the lesson number one; when these women spoke out they become stronger. Activism itself, seemed to generate power and it can become contagious. Diane Nash, the civil rights activist from the 60s, said “There is a power in each of us that we do not realize until we take responsibility.”
Paula A. Johnson, born in 1959, Brooklyn, N.Y. native, is a cardiologist, researcher, professor and public-health expert. She is a product of the New York public school system and a graduate of Radcliffe College at Harvard University. Johnson continued her studies at Harvard, successfully completing her studies with an M.D. and M.P.H (Master of Public Health) in 1985.  Her entire career reflects these two pursuits.
In September 2016, Doctor Johnson became the 14th President of Wellesley College and the first African American to hold this position. The appointment is a testament to her qualifications, international reputation and commitment to improving the lives of women. Wellesley chose her to empower and lead the next generation of Wellesley graduates and those beyond. This achievement is of note when one considers the history of Black Americans having been denied education. Reading and writing were punishable with death, yet African American women like Paula Johnson have led by achieving academic excellence, indeed teaching. Johnson also notes that she has been successful by taking “less traditional routes”.Read more
Ruby Nell Bridges Hall (born September 8, 1954) is an American civil rights activist. She was the first African-American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis in 1960.
Ruby Bridges grew up on the farm that her parents and grandparents sharecropped in Mississippi. She came into the public view at age 6, in 1960. Her parents responded to a request from the NAACP and volunteered her to participate in the integration of the New Orleans school system. They was so much difficulty surrounding her admission that a child psychiatrist, Robert Coles, volunteered to provide counseling to Bridges during her first year. The Bridges family also suffered for their decision to send her to William Frantz Elementary. Her father lost his job, the grocery shop would no longer let them shop there. Her grandparents, who were sharecroppers in Mississippi, were turned off their land. However, it was noted that many others in the community, both black and white, showed support in a variety of ways. Some white families continued to send their children to Frantz despite the protests and boycott. A neighbor provided her father with a new job, and local people walked in support behind the federal marshals' car on the trips to school.
Ruby Bridges Hall, lives in New Orleans with her husband, Malcolm Hall. They have four sons. She is now chair of the Ruby Bridges Foundation, which she formed in 1999 to promote "the values of tolerance, respect, and appreciation of all differences". Describing the mission of the group, she says, "racism is a grown-up disease and we must stop using our children to spread it.”
In October 2006, the Alameda Unified School District in California dedicated a new elementary school to Ruby Bridges, and issued a proclamation in her honor, and in November that year she was honored in the Anti-Defamation League's Concert Against Hate. On July 15, 2011, Bridges met with President Barack Obama at the White House, and while viewing the Norman Rockwell painting on display he told her, "I think it's fair to say that if it hadn't been for you guys, I might not be here and we wouldn't be looking at this together.” In 2014, a statue of Bridges was unveiled in the courtyard of William Frantz Elementary School.Read more