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Dr. Mae Jemison: Defying the Monolithic Identity

Zoe Harrison 

Dr. Miller 

African American History 

12 May 2023 

Dr. Mae Jemison: Defying the Monolithic Identity 

of African American Women What comes to mind when you think of a white person? The answer to that question is as multifaceted as the individuals that make up that group. White people can be lawyers, musicians, politicians, drug addicts, or even murderers. Yet when we think of a Black person, the words that often come to mind are much more limited in scope, and frequently negative in connotation. Terms like “drug dealer,” “gangster,” “homeless,” and “janitor” are all too common. This begs the question: why are Black people so often bound to such negative stereotypes? Who is responsible for perpetuating them? Do Black individuals simply fail to work hard enough to succeed in society, or have they been historically subjected to stereotypes that have been used to justify systemic oppression? The reality is that these stereotypes are not only harmful, but they are also inaccurate. The creation of the monolithic Black person erases the diverse experiences of individuals within this community, and oppresses those who do fit into these negative stereotypes. Furthermore, Black people are often underrepresented in positions of power and influence, which can limit their ability to challenge these imposed identities. However, as we move further into the age of information and modernity, there has been an increase in representation and examples of Black individuals who have defied stereotypes and succeeded in spaces where they are not commonly seen. One of these individuals is Dr. Mae Jemison, who has excelled and broken barriers in predominantly white, male-dominated fields. Her profound accomplishments highlight the resilience, strength, and nuanced identity of Black individuals, inspiring others to strive for excellence.

 A month ago, Dr. Mae Jemison came to the University of San Diego to be interviewed. The interviewer asked her questions about her childhood, her education, her success, and projects that are in progress. With wit and humor, Jemison answered these questions and relayed great advice to the audience. Currently, Jemison is working on a project called 100 Year Starship which has the capabilities for human interstellar travel in the next 50 years. This project is inclusive across ethnicities but also disciplines. Jemison remarks” “we cant do something called interstellar without taking a range of human experience”.

Dr Mae Jemison is an example of Black excellence. She challenges the status quo for Black women. Throughout history, the depiction of Black women has been manipulated and transformed in order to serve the changing needs and objectives of white society. In a society where white people are the “dominant race”, they ultimately get to decide people’s group memberships. Meaning, the assignment of an individual into a group based on characteristics that are specific to that group in accordance with widely held intersubjective definitions. When a person gets to decide who and what another race is,  a trans-generational wave of  self-consciousness and insecurity ultimately prevails. Group consciousness is how people see themselves in contrast or according to how the world sees them.  In the article, “Re(claiming) Subjectivity and Transforming the Politics of SIlence through the Search for Wholeness in “Push” by Sapphire”,  Silvia Pilar Borrego Castro discusses a similar concept called post-positivist realism which “involves an interrogation of the epistemic and affective consequences of our social location of historically learned thinking and feeling” (Castro 148). Post positivism relates to the depiction of Black women because it explores the anthropological factors that define and shape the black female identity. With its focus on “identity, agency, and decolonization” post-positivism becomes a fundamental tool to analyze expressions of African Americans (Casto 148).  For Black people, their self-perception may contradict that of their racial counterparts’ perception. Or even worse, the widely held beliefs of their racial counterparts may convince them of their own identity. Black women face the challenge of not being able to control their perception from the outside world, but rather have stereotypes forced upon them. Back in slave times, the depiction of women was docile and obedient, because their slave owners needed to push that narrative upon them in order to keep peace and avoid uprising (White, Bay, Martin Jr.) However, during antebellum times, the black depiction shifted from docile to brute. Subservient to aggressive. They were seen as “an offense to civilization” which then gave way for their white counterparts to enforce strict laws and black codes against them (White, Bay, Martin Jr). The idea of the “mammy” which is used to describe a stereotype of Black women who worked as domestic servants. The mammy was seen as unfeminine and rough. Demanding and ugly. Barbaric even. Throughout all transformations of Black female identity, Black women find themselves at the bottom of the totem pole, and unfortunately have to typically jump through many hoops to be as successful as their white peers. Identity is an extremely important access to success. When one doesn’t feel supported by society or confident in their ability to achieve, they face barriers that limit their achievements. Thankfully, Dr. Mae Jemison had a family that supported her interests and made her feel confident enough in herself to achieve great things. 

Ultimately, the perception of Black people, and specifically Black women is completely socially constructed. If we peel back the layers of history, it’s quite ironic that Black women can have not only different stereotypes, but completely contradictory ones. Why does the dominant white society get to decide black identity, and how does this impact their success and access to society? 

Dr. Mae Jemison’s experience and Borrego’s article reveal that knowledge is the greatest way to assert dominance, empower oneself, and understand the systems that limit us. The pursuit of knowledge is an important theme in the novel Push. The premise of the novel surrounds the main character Sapphire who suffers from abuse and incestual rape from her parents. Sapphire is diminished to a “voiceless victim” (Castro 150) but learns to read and write which helps her process and heal from her trauma. According to Francis Kazemek, “literacy is an ethical endeavor that has as its goal the liberation of people for intelligent, meaningful, and humane action upon the world” (Kazemek qtd in Castro). Similarly to Sapphire, Dr. Mae Jemison uses knowledge as a tool to propel her success in many different fields. At sixteen years old she went to Stanford university  and later on went to medical school. She then joined the Peace Corps, using her medical skills to help underprivileged and communities in distress. Jemison has been many things in her lifetime. A teacher, traveler, dancer, astronaut, and doctor. Her knowledge became her superpower and allowed her to advance in society. Through hard work and extreme dedication, Jemison defied the stereotypical standard for Black success. Jemison made a profound comment during her seminar at USD. She said “You have to believe that you have the right to be someplace.” There is such an importance of empowerment among marginalized communities. Believing that you have something to contribute is the key foundation to defying stereotypes and oppression.  

Dr. Mae Jemison defies the monolith identity of African American women through her multifaceted interests and professions. She does not squeeze herself into the category of “a Black scientist” or “a Black astronaut” or “a Black artist”. She realizes that her passions and talents are interconnected and mutually enriching. Sadly, in a world still plagued by racism, Black individuals are expected to fit into a box. Typically this “box” is a limiting one. In her seminar, Jemison made a point that “all of the things you learn can interplay” and we need not put ourselves in a box. Black people are taught throughout history that we cannot be many things like our white counterparts, but Dr. Mae Jemison is an example of a woman with various talents, interests, and successes. The support of her family, and academic professionals excelled her career and gave her the confidence in herself needed to be as successful as she is. Overall, while Black people are not inherently more bound to monolithic identities, the ongoing effects of racism and discrimination in many societies can contribute to the erasure of individual experiences and the reinforcement of harmful stereotypes and attitudes.

Works Cited 

Alexander, Kerri Lee. Mae Jemison Biography, 2018,

Borrego, Silvia Pilar Castro. “Re(Claiming) Subjectivity and Transforming the Politics of 

Silence through the Search for Wholeness in ‘Push’ by Sapphire / Re(Clamando) La 

Subjectividad y Tarnsformando Las Políticas Silenciadoras a Través de La Búsqueda de 

La Unidad Ontológia En La Novela ‘Push’, de Sapphire.” Atlantis, vol. 36, no. 2, 2014, 

  1. 147–59. JSTOR, Accessed 12 May 2023.


White, Deborah Gray, et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans with 

Documents. 3rd ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013.

The Importance of African American History

The event that I attended for this year’s Black History Project was the Candine Marie Bendow talks Red Lip Theology. This event was virtual and in person at San Diego Central Library on March 17, 2023. The sponsors that were included in this event were Dr. Terresa Bert who is a dean of the University Library at the University of San Diego. Dr. Terresa explains how she wants to bring people together and how grateful she is to be where she is. The next speaker is Candine Marie Bendow who is a multi-genre theologian who centralized her work on faith, beauty, feminism, and culture. Candice gives voice to black women shared experiences of jouring and healing towards wholeness. Candice challenges black women to think critically about how they see the world, themselves, and God in our society today. Candice is the main speaker of this program and she was very well spoken and knew what she was talking about. Candice talks about her love for the library and she feels as if it is her second home because growing up, her mom would take her to the libraries on Friday’s and Candice would spend hours reading books and enjoying being there. Candice makes a strong point that “black women are never heralded as the four runners of religious history making in our community” (7:47).  Candice goes on to explain how black women are rarely given the same spotlight that men are given which is unfair especially since black women are putting a lot of effort into making a change. This is an ongoing occurrence in our society today as well, where women in general no matter the race are not given equal opportunities in life due to their gender. Candice explains how she was committed to working towards getting that exposure for black women who are making a change in the world for better.  The main core idea of this program is aiming towards recognition being given out equally towards those who are trying to advocate for a change in our society today. In our class, African American History, we have learned many events about our past where many African Americans were fighting for a change but their voices were silenced due to the conditions they were living in during that time. Speaking out and not being afraid of your history are things we have learned throughout class that were also talked about in the program I attended.

Throughout the program, Candice expresses her passion and strength to fight for who she is and to not let people dictate how her life is seen or goes. Chapter 9  “Reconstruction: The Making and Unmaking of a Revolution” in Freedom on My Mind, discusses the way African Americans were living post Revolutionary War. Upon the end of the Revolutionary War, African Americans were now faced with adapting to the new lifestyle they would become a part of. Most states started to abolish slavery and those who were enslaved were now given their freedom that was much deserved throughout the torturous years that slavery was happening. Towards the end of the program, Candince talks about Benbow talking about “Naming herself for herself and not for others”. To further explain this point, Candice goes on to talk about the labels we carry within ourselves are the labels we give ourselves. Candice is explaining how we as humans are portrayed to others based upon how we carry ourselves and how we label ourselves. When African Americans were enslaved, they were given stereotypes that everyone that “looks like them” deserves the same thing they are going through. Through this, African Americans had to go through many mental challenges within themselves of knowing that what they were going through was beyond unlawful but still having hope to escape what they were going through. In chapter 9 of Freedom on My Mind, it states, “ “I would rather stay here and starve and die if it comes to that than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters” (897). This quote was said by Jourdon Anderson who was an enslaved man with his wife and three children. The quote above explains how Jourdan still feared after slavery ended that his children and wife would still have to fear of rape and getting sexual exploitation by white men. Candice explains in her program event that growing up she always feared about the “what ifs” but she understood that she had to hold herself strong and carry herself properly. 

African American History focuses on the journey of enslaved humans as they slowly started to gain their freedom. Even in our society today, there is still a big difference in our wealth class which a majority of that problem has to do with race. In a part of the program, Candice talks a bit about what non people of color owe to african americans because of what they put them through. Candice states, “Non people of color owe it to people of color to interrogate the systems that push and grow you and ask yourself if they reflect the world that people of color want to see” (39:42). This quote explains how non people of color have to put themselves in a person’s shoes who deals with racial injustice and ask themselves if that is really how they want to see the world. An article called, What American Owes: How reparations would look and who would pay, explains how reparations are the answer to help eliminate wealth differences which are caused due to systemic racism. In the article it states, “Advocates and experts argue that ongoing systemic racism has placed Black Americans at a disadvantage in everything from obtaining an education to being paid fair wages, purchasing homes, starting businesses and passing down generational wealth — all components needed to achieve robust economic health” (Samara Lynn and Catherine Thorbecke). This quote explains how systemic racism in our society today is causing African Americans to be at a disadvantage when it comes to education, fair pay wages, getting a job and generational wealth. These are only a few of the disadvantages african americans have to go through and those disadvantages are essential to obtain a good economic health.  

The next topic Candice focused on and was one of the most important topics was her making of Red Lip Theology focusing on being committed to a space of truth and not feeling as if you need to portray a certain image to “fit” into our world today. Candice goes on to talk about the importance of being committed to creating space for the persian to want to emerge. This means that we as humans have to make space in front of us for the future us. If we over complicate our life and add more negative things to it that are not needed, our future selves will not be able to be at its full potential. We have to create spaces for us to be and believe. Another important topic that Candice talks about is the fact that our education system today is denying certain classes because it makes the history of this country feel unbearable. Candice talked negatively about this because it is evident that people who are educated about the history of our country are more intelligent when it comes to making decisions that affect all races. 

Throughout this journey of creating this blog and viewing a Black History Program, I was able to gain more knowledge about our countries past as well as get a new perspective of certain topics. Candice preached throughout the program the importance of black women and people in general in church and the equality we must have when it comes to religion. Our visions of life should be a lot bigger than the four walls in a church. What we preach about in church should be spread out into the world and not just keep within that certain church. African American History and Candice Bendow program helped me get a better understanding of African American history. One of the most important things I have learned through this semester is that it will be a lifelong journey of constant learning and pushing forward to solving issues related to race. 

The Definition of Oneself – Kosi Ezeanolue

Kosi Ezeanolue

The Definition of Oneself

On March 31, 2023, I saw a presentation led by Dr. Mae C. Jemison,  an American engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut who became the first African-American woman to travel in space. She opens by talking about how our backgrounds and identifications play a significant role in our futures yet we are not ruled by it. Jemison then goes into a story about when she was a little girl and her teacher asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. A young Mae Jemison responded “I’d like to be a scientist” to which her teacher responded, “You mean a nurse?”. This story was a great representation of the limitations placed on her as a girl based on her identity as a woman. With this introduction from Dr. Jemison, it was clear that she had a powerful message about the importance of defining yourself and understanding your identity. The purpose of the program was to shed light on Jemison’s journey, and the core narratives and themes that emerged revolved around the importance of perseverance, the power of education, and the impact of race and gender on one’s success.

In the discussion panel, Dr. Mae Jemison shared her personal experiences of being a black woman in America. She emphasized the importance of recognizing and celebrating diversity in all its forms. According to Dr. Jemison, being black is not just a skin color, but it is an identity that is tied to the experiences, history, and culture of black people. Dr. Jemison also touched on the issue of “tokenism”, where individuals from underrepresented groups are included in a group or organization to give the appearance of diversity. She stressed that true diversity is not about ticking boxes or meeting quotas, but it is about creating an inclusive environment where people from diverse backgrounds can feel valued and respected for their unique perspectives. Jemison speaks on this, likely referring to schools like Stanford which she attended. She continues on highlighting the need for black people to embrace their identity and be proud of their heritage. She shared how she faced discrimination and prejudice throughout her career, but her confidence in her identity as a black woman gave her the strength to overcome those obstacles. Her experiences as a black person have also shaped her perspectives and informed her decisions as a leader and astronaut.

Freedom on my Mind offers an insightful conversation on the intersection of race and gender as barriers to success. One quote that stands out and relates to this theme is “You can’t be what you can’t see.” This quote emphasizes the importance of representation and its ability to inspire young people to pursue their passions and dreams. The quote connects to Jemison’s early experience in kindergarten when her teacher failed to believe in her aspiration to become a scientist, instead suggesting that she should pursue a career as a nurse. This incident highlights how societal expectations based on race and gender can restrict individuals’ ambitions and discourage them from pursuing their passions.

Similarly, another quote from the text that relates to the theme of perseverance is, “Don’t give up, don’t give in, and don’t let anyone break you.” This quote echoes Jemison’s experience of being ignored by teachers in college, despite her obvious intelligence and eagerness to learn. Jemison persisted despite these setbacks, earning a degree in engineering from Stanford University and eventually becoming an astronaut. Her story is a testament to the power of resilience in the face of adversity, and it illustrates the importance of never giving up on one’s dreams. During the panel discussion, the core narratives and themes revolved around Jemison’s extraordinary journey as a black woman in the field of science. Her experience as an EMT and working seven days a week while applying to Stanford University illustrates the value of hard work and dedication. She did not let any obstacles stand in her way, and her perseverance eventually paid off. Furthermore, Jemison’s dedication to education and pursuit of knowledge are themes that run throughout her life and career. She took numerous African-American-based courses in college and credits her diverse education with giving her the tools she needed to succeed.

The discussion also brought attention to the impact of race and gender on Jemison’s journey and the challenges that women and people of color face in science and technology fields. These fields have been historically dominated by white men, and women and people of color are often underrepresented and undervalued. Jemison’s story serves as a reminder of the importance of breaking down these barriers and creating more opportunities for underrepresented groups in science and technology. Freedom on my Mind provides a thought-provoking discussion on race and gender as barriers to success, and the quotes from the text effectively connect to Jemison’s experience. Jemison’s story is a testament to the power of perseverance and education, as well as the importance of representation in inspiring young people to pursue their dreams. The panel highlighted the ongoing struggle for equality and representation in science and technology fields, where women and people of color face significant challenges. Jemison’s journey and the narratives and themes of the program are significant to our understanding of African American history because they showcase the ongoing struggle for equality and representation, and emphasize the importance of hard work, perseverance, and education in overcoming obstacles.

Moreover, Jemison’s journey speaks to the significance of representation in inspiring the next generation of leaders. Jemison discussed the impact of seeing someone who looked like her in space, and how it inspired her to pursue her dreams. This sentiment was echoed by the panelists who emphasized the importance of having role models and mentors who can guide and support young people on their journeys. The lack of representation in science and technology fields not only limits opportunities for underrepresented groups but also limits the potential for innovation and progress in these fields. Therefore, the importance of creating more opportunities and supporting diversity in these fields cannot be overstated.

The discussion on the impact of race and gender on Jemison’s journey also highlights the need for systemic change in society. The challenges that Jemison faced in pursuing her dreams are not unique to her but are shared by many individuals from underrepresented groups. The panelists emphasized the importance of addressing systemic inequalities that limit opportunities for women and people of color, including lack of access to education, discrimination in hiring and promotion, and limited representation in leadership positions. By addressing these issues, society can create a more inclusive and equitable future where everyone has the opportunity to pursue their dreams and reach their full potential.

In addition, Jemison’s story is a reminder of the ongoing struggle for equality and representation in African American history. Her accomplishments as the first Black woman in space are a testament to the resilience and determination of the African American community in the face of adversity. The themes of perseverance, hard work, and education that were emphasized in the panel discussion are also central to the African American experience. Throughout history, African Americans have faced systemic barriers to achieving their goals, but they have persevered and made significant contributions to society. Jemison’s journey serves as a symbol of this resilience and a source of inspiration for future generations.

In conclusion, Dr. Mae C. Jemison’s story and contributions to science were the focus of a panel discussion that explored the themes of perseverance, the power of education, and the impact of race and gender on success. Our text, Freedom on my Mind quotes on the importance of representation and perseverance connect to Jemison’s journey and serve as a reminder of the ongoing challenges that women and people of color face in pursuing their passions. The narratives and themes of the program are significant to our understanding of African American History because they provide us with a lens through which we can view the experiences of black women in STEM fields. Dr. Jemison’s story highlights the importance of representation and access to education for marginalized communities. Her journey shows us that with determination, hard work, and support from others, it is possible to break down the barriers that limit our potential.


Works Cited

Thompson, Kenneth. “Politics and the Fight for Jobs.” Freedom on My Mind: A 

History of African Americans with Documents, edited by Deborah Gray White et al., 

Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013, pp. 910-914.

Black History USD Project – Tiffany Nicholas

Tiffany Nicholas

May 12, 2023

African American History

Professor Channon Miller

Black History LGBTQ+ and Literature for the Future

For the Black History at USD Project, I decided to attend the San Diego Public Library for The Black LGBTQ+ Human Book Experience on February 11th of this year. This event sought to bring about greater understanding, empathy, and acceptance of diverse identities and perspectives within the Black LGBTQ+ community. Through this unique format, participants can engage in one-on-one conversations with “human books,” people who share their experiences and stories of being a part of the Black LGBTQ+ community. As an LGBTQ+ individual, being able to participate in this beautiful event meant a lot to me. The Black LGBTQ+ Human Book Experience and the works of African American writers and poets demonstrate the power of literature and poetry in promoting empathy, understanding, and social change, particularly within marginalized communities. Through their stories and experiences, these individuals challenge stereotypes and misconceptions, assert their identities, and highlight the resilience and strength of the Black LGBTQ+ community, contributing to the ongoing progression of African American history.

Historically, literature and poetry have been used by African Americans as a means of expressing their struggles, experiences, and aspirations, as well as challenging societal norms and injustices. In the case of the Black LGBTQ+ community, literature and poetry play a similarly important role in providing a platform for voices that are often silenced or ignored.

One of the “human books” at the Black LGBTQ+ Human Book Experience was Angel Maya, a trans activist, and educator. Maya shared her experiences of navigating life as a Black trans woman, including the challenges she faced in accessing modern human necessities like healthcare, employment, and housing. Through her poetry and spoken word performances, Maya emphasized the importance of self-love and self-acceptance and the need for greater understanding and support for the Black trans community.

Shanelle Johnson, another “human book” at the event, shared her experiences as a Black lesbian mother. Johnson’s poetry explored the complexities of navigating multiple identities and societal expectations, as well as the importance of building community and finding joy in everyday life. Through her poetry, Johnson highlighted the resilience and strength of the Black LGBTQ+ community, and the power of storytelling as a means of creating connection and understanding. Brittany Hayes, a bisexual writer, and activist, was also a “human book” at the event. Hayes shared her experiences of growing up in a conservative, religious household and coming to terms with her sexuality. Through her writing, Hayes explores themes of identity, community, and belonging, and challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about bisexuality. Hayes’ work highlights the importance of representation and visibility, both within and outside of the Black LGBTQ+ community.

Together, these “human books” demonstrate the power of literature and poetry as a means of promoting understanding, empathy, and social change. By sharing their stories and experiences, they are not only challenging stereotypes and misconceptions but also inspiring others to speak out and create change in their own communities.

Through what was learned this semester, literature and even poetry have a long and rich history within the African American community. From the slave narratives of the 19th century to the Harlem Renaissance of the early 20th century. According to Freedom on My Mind, “fresh forms of expression in literature, the visual arts, dance, and music affirmed black identity and culture and gained recognition for black creativity in American culture.” (Freedom On My Mind 2020, 679). African Americans have used literature and poetry as a means of telling their own stories and asserting their own identities. In the 1950s, The Civil Rights Movement created a revitalization of African American literary and artistic expression, with writers such as James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and even female writer Maya Angelou using their work to challenge racism and inequality. For example, in modern times today, the Black Lives Matter movement has sparked a renewed interest in literature and poetry as a means of promoting social justice and change. Correspondingly, within the Black LGBTQ+ community, literature, and poetry have become important means of promoting visibility, representation, and understanding. Writers and poets such as Audre Lorde and Danez Smith have explored themes of sexuality, gender, and identity, and challenged stereotypes and misconceptions about LGBTQ+ people of color. Events such as the Black LGBTQ+ Human Book Experience provide a platform for these voices and create opportunities for dialogue and understanding within the community. Through literature and poetry, African Americans have been able to tell their own stories and assert their own identities, challenging societal norms and injustices. This is particularly true for the Black LGBTQ+ community, where literature and poetry provide a means of promoting visibility, representation, and understanding.

The Black LGBTQ+ Human Book Experience is an example of how literature and poetry can be used to promote empathy and understanding within a community. By sharing their stories and experiences, the “human books” at the event are challenging stereotypes and misconceptions, and inspiring others to speak out and create change in their own communities. The event provides an opportunity for individuals to engage in one-on-one conversations with members of the Black LGBTQ+ community, fostering a greater understanding of the diverse identities and perspectives within the community. Literature as a whole has played an important role in shaping African American culture in the United States. It has been a means of expressing the experiences, thoughts, and emotions of African Americans and has helped to shape their identity. One of the earliest records of African American literature was the slave narrative and these autobiographical works told the stories of formerly enslaved individuals and offered a firsthand account of the brutality and dehumanization of slavery. They were a powerful tool for abolitionists, helping to mobilize public opinion against the institution of slavery and promoting the cause of abolition. As Deborah Gray White notes in “Freedom On My Mind,” slave narratives “drew attention to the horrors of slavery and provided evidence of the intellectual and emotional capacities of Black people” (Freedom On My Mind 2020, 59).

Another important genre of African American literature was the Harlem Renaissance which I touched on earlier. This cultural movement, which took place in the 1920s and 1930s, was characterized by a flourishing of African American literature, music, and art. It was a time when African Americans were asserting their own cultural identity and challenging stereotypes and misconceptions. As Waldo E. Martin Jr. notes in “Freedom On My Mind,” the Harlem Renaissance “represented the first time that Black artists and intellectuals were able to speak for themselves, in their own voices, without white intermediaries” (Freedom On My Mind 2020, 257). One of the most significant figures of the Harlem Renaissance was Langston Hughes, whose works captured the vibrancy and complexity of African American life during this time. In his poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” Hughes writes: 

“I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.” (The Negro Speaks of Rivers, 1921) 

This is a powerful poem and a celebration of African American history and identity and serves as an example of how literature helped to shape African American culture during the Harlem Renaissance. In addition to the Harlem Renaissance, literature played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s through the 1960s. Writers and poets such as James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, and Amiri Baraka used their works to advocate for racial equality and civil rights. As Mia Bay notes in “Freedom On My Mind,” “literature played a central role in mobilizing support for the movement, creating a sense of shared identity and common purpose among activists and supporters” (Freedom On My Mind 2020, 523). One of the most significant works of literature from this time was Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time.” In this book, Baldwin offers a powerful critique of racism in America and advocates for a vision of racial justice and equality. As Waldo E. Martin Jr. notes in “Freedom On My Mind,” “Baldwin’s book challenged white Americans to confront the reality of racism and its impact on the lives of African Americans” (Freedom On My Mind 2020, 547). In contemporary times, literature continues to shape African American culture and identity. Works by authors such as Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jesmyn Ward offer a powerful exploration of the ongoing struggles faced by African Americans, while poets such as Claudia Rankine and Jericho Brown offer a powerful critique of racism and injustice in America today. As Mia Bay notes in “Freedom On My Mind,” “literature continues to play a significant role in shaping African American identity, promoting empathy and understanding, and advocating for social change” (Freedom On My Mind 2020, 605). From slave narratives to contemporary works, literature has helped to express the experiences, thoughts, and emotions of African Americans, and has been a means of promoting empathy, understanding, and social change.

Overall, The Black LGBTQ+ Human Book Experience and the exploration of literature and poetry within the African American community simply demonstrates the power of storytelling as a means of promoting social change. Through literature and poetry, marginalized communities are able to assert their own identities, challenge societal norms and injustices, and create greater understanding and empathy within their communities. As we continue to grapple with issues of racism, inequality, and systemic oppression, it is important that we continue to use literature and poetry as a means of promoting understanding and social change.

Work Cited

The Black LGBTQ+ Human Book Experience, February 11, 2023 

Hughes, Langston. “The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes.” Poetry Foundation, 1921. 

White, Deborah Gray, Mia Bay, and Waldo E. Martin, Jr. Freedom on My Mind. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2020. BibliU version.

“Challenges Faced by Black Boys in America: An Examination of Education, Criminal Justice, and Discrimination” -Clay Marshall

The United States of America is a land full of potential and promise, but it also has a long history of racial discrimination and inequality. The continuous struggle for civil rights and racial justice is still a daily reality for many people of color, particularly young black guys, who frequently encounter problems that other groups do not. I recently heard a guest speaker describe his and his friends’ experiences, shining light on what it’s like to be a young black boy in the United States.


The lecturer began by debunking one of the most prevalent preconceptions among young black males: that they are criminals. He discussed how people see young black boys with mistrust, even when they have done nothing wrong. Jeff, the speaker’s companion, stated that being perceived as a criminal or as someone who does not belong is a very typical experience for young black males in the United States. This is a deeply embedded stereotype that has endured in American society for decades and is one of the most significant barriers that young black guys encounter.


Chauncey, the speaker’s friend, brought up another significant issue: police violence. He used the case of LaQuan McDonald, who was shot sixteen times, to illustrate how young black guys are undervalued in society. For years, police brutality against young black males has been a contentious issue in the United States, with numerous reports of unarmed black men being killed or abused by police officers making headlines. These incidents sparked massive protests and calls for law enforcement laws and tactics to be revised.


Quinten, another speaker’s acquaintance, discussed his schooling experiences as a young black boy. He expressed gratitude for the diversity on his college campus and the sense of belonging it gave him. He mentioned that the presence of other black male leaders on campus made him feel appreciated and motivated him to achieve his ambitions. He did, however, concede that every community has problems, and that being a young black male presents its own set of challenges.


The speaker’s acquaintances’ stories provide insight into the difficulties that young black boys face in the United States. They underlined the numerous myths, discrimination, and institutional biases that prevent young black men from realizing their full potential. Young black men face issues that are not unique to them, but they are sometimes exacerbated by their color and gender, making success much more difficult for them.


The criminal stereotype is one of the most important barriers that young black boys face. Because bias is deeply ingrained in American society, many young black males are treated unfairly by law enforcement and society at large. According to research, young black males are more likely than white peers to be stopped, searched, and jailed, even when they have committed no crimes. This bias extends to the criminal justice system, where black males are more likely to be convicted and sentenced harshly than white men for the same crimes. These biases can have long-term consequences, making it more difficult for young black males to gain future employment, housing, and other opportunities.


The criminal stereotype is one of the most important barriers that young black boys face. Because bias is deeply ingrained in American society, many young black males are treated unfairly by law enforcement and society at large. According to research, young black males are more likely than white peers to be stopped, searched, and jailed, even when they have committed no crimes. This bias extends to the criminal justice system, where black males are more likely to be convicted and sentenced harshly than white men for the same crimes. These biases can have long-term consequences, making it more difficult for young black males to gain future employment, housing, and other opportunities.


Another area where young black boys encounter distinct problems is education. Despite recent great advances, there is still a significant achievement gap between black and white children in the United States. Young black boys are more likely than white counterparts to attend underfunded schools, have less access to competent teachers and resources, and endure greater rates of suspension and expulsion. These obstacles make it more difficult for young black boys to succeed academically and limit their possibilities for higher education and job advancement.


To address the issues that young black boys experience, a holistic approach that includes both individual and societal change is required. Individually, young black males must be supported and encouraged to follow their dreams and goals. This includes giving kids resources, mentorship, and positive role models. It also entails addressing societal assumptions and biases and attempting to build a more inclusive and inviting environment for young black boys.


Systemic change is also required to address the core causes of the issues that young black guys experience. This involves tackling gaps in education financing, providing additional resources and support to low-income schools, and overhauling the criminal justice system to guarantee that young black males are treated fairly and justly. It also entails trying to eliminate bias and discrimination in all aspects of society, from hiring procedures to access to healthcare.


The struggle for racial justice and equality continues, and young black guys are in the vanguard of it. Their stories and experiences underscore the critical need for change and remind us of the work that remains to be done. We must work together as a nation to overcome the issues that young black men face and to establish a more just and equal future for all.


The struggle for racial justice and equality continues, and young black guys are in the vanguard of it. Their stories and experiences underscore the critical need for change and remind us of the work that remains to be done. We must work together as a nation to overcome the issues that young black guys face and to establish a more just and equal future for all.


The description of the criminal stereotype and police brutality in the paragraph echoes the experiences of African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement, who confronted systematic racism and police brutality. The course highlights how black people were frequently subjected to arbitrary arrests and police brutality, and how they formed protests and other kinds of resistance to fight back.


The statistics on the problems that young black boys experience in the United States are alarming. According to a Department of Education analysis, black students are more than three times more likely than white students to be suspended or expelled. This uneven treatment continues throughout their education, as black pupils are more likely than white students to attend schools with less experienced teachers and fewer resources. The criminal justice system also contributes to these discrepancies, as black individuals are more likely than white people to be arrested for drug offenses, despite identical rates of drug usage. According to The Sentencing Project, black males are six times more likely than white men to be incarcerated in the United States. This gap in imprisonment rates is enormous, with black males imprisoned at roughly six times the rate of white males. The repercussions of these discrepancies are clear, with 44% of black men in the United States saying they have faced discrimination because of their ethnicity, compared to 26% of black women, according to a Pew Research Center research. These figures show the importance of systemic change and a determined effort to confront and overcome the persistent racial inequities in the United States.


The educational challenges that young black boys encounter are a frequent issue in “Freedom on My Mind.” The book explains how black people were denied access to high-quality education and the tools they required to succeed, resulting in a disparity in accomplishment between black and white pupils. In Chapter 7 Confrontations in “Bleeding Kansas” and the Courts, the book delves into how black students encountered prejudice and segregation in schools and colleges, as well as how they campaigned for equal access to education.


Overall, the passage’s descriptions of the difficulties and challenges experienced by young black boys in the United States reflect the greater struggles of African Americans throughout the Civil Rights Movement, as detailed in “Freedom on My Mind.” The book emphasizes the ongoing struggle for racial justice and equality, as well as the importance of systemic change in addressing the core causes of prejudice and inequality.

“Ghostly Ideals and the Hauntology of Race and Religion” -Brooke Harris

Intending to share information and knowledge on Black History, Dr. Brooks, at the University of San Diego, presented on ghostly ideals and the hauntology of race and religion. This event was a meeting in which viewers discussed with Dr. Brooks and asked questions when they had arisen. Not only did the presentation allow for an understanding of race and religion, but it also discussed the hauntings of gender inequality. He talked about the idea of hauntology and how it related to religion, while Professor Babka, from the theology department at USD, offered her insight on the topic. Black male clerical power has plagued the genealogy of black religious leadership in socio-political life. As they relate to social issues, sexism, and challenges within the church, these themes are entwined with society and African American history while showing through in the criminal justice system. While introducing this topic, Brooks notes that the term hauntology comes from social violence that makes itself known. This interconnection between social issues can be shown and presented through hauntology. This idea is built upon by a social ghost where something is barely visible but makes itself known in less prevalent ways. Like a ghost, it haunts and draws effectively. These ideas and forces that one usually tries to ignore but never leaves them alone. But, by investigating these ghosts, we can turn destructive hauntings into something more empowering. As we dive deeper into African American history, it is crucial to note the hauntology that has occurred in the past and how it has affected issues in our society today. 

Black feminist hauntology is an analysis of time that captures the continual nature of structural violence, not just symbolic or theorized violence that is racial colonialism. This haunting has taken over Black freedom. As these ideas present themselves through interconnection, we can see it prominently through history as people of color and women were at a point where they faced discrimination. These ideas are discussed in Freedom on My Mind as we can see that Black oppression ties itself to multiple layers of problems and “While black men searched for more satisfying ways to express their manhood, black women formed new organizations to fight racism and sexism” (White, 996). Many women of color became exposed to the negative impact of being a Black female in a society where neither was accepted. As people looked down upon Black women, they refused to accept this fate and continued to work at changing this societal norm. Furthermore, “Other black feminist groups were established in the late 1960s and early ’70s. The National Black Feminist Organization, the National Alliance of Black Feminists, the Combahee River Collective, and Black Women Organized for Action all emerged in response to the black freedom movement, which they felt excluded them, and the new women’s rights movement, which likewise neglected their particular issues. Over and over, they reiterated the concept of double jeopardy — “the phenomenon of being Black and female, in a country that is both racist and sexist.” (White, 970). They contended that all Black people must fight on several fronts at the same time, and they challenged white feminists to make racism and classism women’s problems. Black females fought against white supremacy and challenged racial oppression. As the Great Depression furthered Black marginality, visions of freedom expanded. As they worked to change patterns of oppression, this lies evident. The presentation allows students to understand how male supremacy tormented females in society. 

Further, society has misunderstood the idea of religion and churches, which leaves people with a preconceived notion about Black religious people. In order to better understand, we can connect these ghostly ideas to “Black Theology in American Religion” and  “Race, Religion, and Beliefs about Racial Inequality” which talk about the importance that religion has had on the Black community. Because religion is so deeply segregated along racial lines, most white Americans are unfamiliar that “The church has long been a central institution in the lives of Black Americans, serving as an important social, economic, cultural, and political resource” (Taylor). One often understands Christian theology, but Babka speaks about Black religious thoughts differing from the Christian theology of white Americans, nor does it directly relate to traditional African beliefs. One must note that it is both, but adapted to the situation of Black people. They resorted to Black religious ideas as they sought justice in a country ruled by a white ideology in its social, political, and economic systems. African Americans were enabled to look through distortions of the gospel and realize the actual meaning of God’s deliverance of the oppressed. It is through these ideas that we can understand the importance of religious aspects in African American history. As people leaned toward religion, they were not welcome in a traditional white church and in turn, were able to make Black communities. These communities and churches brought people together, and “Five themes in particular defined the character of black religious thought during slavery and its subsequent development: justice, liberation, hope, love, and suffering” (Cone, 756). Black people depended on their community and found hope in following God. Even though white people were preaching that the church was unavailable to them, they pushed beyond these hauntings and followed God anyway. 

Furthermore, “Black Feminist Hauntology” states that we must also realize the attack that the criminal justice system places on Black people. People understand the longing to, “abolish the criminal justice system because it is rooted in state sponsored violence and revenge” (Hanna, 55). But, fail to acknowledge it on the basis that in order abolish the system, they must accept racism as the fuel that keeps the criminal justice system moving. It is clear that the racializing and colonial roots of the criminal justice system cannot be addressed just by deconstructing crime and delegitimizing the use of state violence in the system. When these individuals are highlighted by the committed crime, it allows for segregation. By doing so, it reinforces the idea that they are the result of personal dysfunction rather than a system. According to hauntology, this violence has only been out of control since it was taken and warped to involve this kind of violence. Thus, “The relationships between colonial slavery and criminal justice violence are inevitable and unavoidable” (Hanna, 60). Our perceptions of this dangerous few are plagued and caught in an endless cycle of racist absurdity. Because the justice system was effectively closed as an avenue to reinstate affirmative action or challenge the mass incarceration of African Americans, we see that the incarceration rates for Black people compared to white people were dramatically different, most being Black males. These issues are still prevalent today. The judicial system was essentially closed as a means of reintroducing affirmative action or challenging the widespread imprisonment of African Americans. As one can learn more about each aspect of change that was occurring, it can become easier to understand how everything was connected and how every act against Black people led to a nation where racial segregation was present. 

The necessity to eliminate white supremacist hetero-patriarchy is at the core of all battles since, without the demise of these pillars, colonialism would continue to exist in manifestations and progressively poor apparitions. Black hauntology brings back into view the chains that link racial colonialism and slavery to the lives and deaths that involve Black people. This lingering idea prompts the understanding of African American History by bringing light to how racism and sexism are present throughout history and how they apply to issues revolving around the church and criminal justice system. The presentation commemorates Black history as Brooks explains the ideology of hauntology while also addressing the means of what must be done to further clarify and add to these ideas. As we question what is next, it is clear that Black Americans have problems that must address this double reality. In an act to get rid of racism and segregation, we must notice that racial colonialism reemerges in hauntology as an oppressive system of power and control. A system that is based on white supremacist ideas about humanity and conquest must continually return in different forms to maintain its lies. To move forward, one must fully understand that these cases of anti-Black oppression can be tied to hauntology. In the past, hauntology was hidden, but now it shapes the present and Black future by recognizing these realities and using this knowledge to prompt a world that is not haunted by white people’s actions. In doing so, it gives Black people back their freedom and empowers people to use strength rather than weakness to combat oppressive patterns.  

Works Cited

Cone, James H. “Black Theology in American Religion.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. 53, no. 4, 1985, pp. 755–71. JSTOR, Accessed 9 May 2023.

Saleh-Hanna, Viviane. “Black Feminist Hauntology.” Champ Pénal/Penal Field, 23 Mar. 2015, 

TAYLOR, MARYLEE C., and STEPHEN M. MERINO. “Race, Religion, and Beliefs about Racial Inequality.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 634, 2011, pp. 60–77. JSTOR, Accessed 9 May 2023.

White, Deborah G., et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins, 2021.

“‘Red Lip Theology’ & Black womanhood in Contemporary Christianity” -Lauren Forsterer

On February 27th, my fellow peers and I gathered into our very own Copley Library to hear Candice Marie Benbow discuss her latest book. Her novel,“Red Lip Theology”, discusses the blurring boundary of irreverent and righteous, and her experience in Christian faith as a Black woman. The book dives deep into the cross-section between Theology, feminism, sexuality, and activism. She gracefully discussed her experience and beliefs regarding her Faith, as well as what steps we can all take to help benefit minorities, especially Black women. She dives into her background of how being a Black millennial woman who is of Faith has shaped her understanding of the world. She also discusses the power of religious institutes, and the importance of decolonizing Faith in order to create a more understanding and accepting space. 

Benbow starts off her talk explaining her experience as a Black woman trying to navigate the Christian faith. Her speech takes place between the cusp of February and March, which she explains is an interesting time for her community. February is Black History Month where Black women are not represented, and figures like Malcom X and Dr. Martin Luther King are at the forefront of the movement. Then, in March, Women’s History Month is celebrated which fails to highlight the hardwork and dedication of Black women in the Women’s Rights Movement. In her talk, the author also highlights how Black women are never heralded as the forerunner of religious history, even though they are extremely influential. For example, Prathia Hall created the famous “I have a Dream” phrase that Dr. King showcased in 1963, and is still taught and commended around the globe. If it were not for Reverend Prathia Hall’s work, the speech’s central message would have never made it to the public and affected the Civil Rights Movement. Benbow also mentions a few other influential women that are forgotten in our History, such as Jarena Lee and Julia A. J. Foote. Both of these women, and many more, do not get the recognition they deserve for their trailblazing work over their lifetimes. This is a prime example of how Black women are left out of African American history and do not receive the recognition they deserve. Before listening to Benbow’s talk, I also did not recognize these powerful women’s names and did not understand their impact on our world. This also illustrates how Black women are also not as recognized for their accomplishments, and therefore is significant to our understanding of African American History in seeing a more equal and inclusive narrative of the influential scholars who fought to create a better world for future generations. 

Another aspect that Benbow highlights in her talk is the complexity of modern day religious institutions. The operation of Church spaces are important to understand African American History because religion is a huge component in the past and present of uniting and establishing Black communities. Our textbook, Freedom on My Mind,  states in Chapter Nine that, “Next to the family, the black church provided the most important institutional support in the transition from slavery to freedom. Joining a church was an act of physical and spiritual emancipation and.. also empowered blacks because they operated outside white control. In addition, black churches anchored collective black identification — a sense of peoplehood, of nationhood” (White, 2020). This quote highlights the importance of religious institutions in Black history, and how closely tied they are to culture and community. However, Benbow suggests that some modern religious establishments are not as inviting and empowering as they are promised to be. The author explains how faith spaces have the power to build you up, as well as tear you down with shame and guilt. This evaluates how religious institutes are operating today, and how they can sometimes feel isolating and distressing. 

Benbow posed a provocative question during her talk regarding whether or not we owe it to sacred spaces to push them to be better for future generations, or if we should choose to all together disconnect from the establishment. Her question illustrates the importance of religion in African American culture, and how it should evolve with modern times, rather than not accepting new courses of actions. For example, the author mentions in her talk an experience her Mother had with the Church that changed the trajectory of both her and her daughter’s life. Benbow describes that her Mother was unmarried when she was conceived, and the Church obligated her Mother to stand in front of the congregation and apologize for her sins. Benbow’s Father was also involved in the Church, and did not have to ask for forgiveness for his part of the sin.

Her Mother then refused to beg for forgiveness because she didn’t want her daughter to grow up in a church that was shameful and unfair towards women. Benbow reminds the audience that although her Mother did not apologize for her sin, many other women before and after her have to take on the opposition. This personal experience from the author helps highlight the relationship between Black women and the Church, and how it has not always had their best interest in mind. It is important to evaluate the mandates enforced by religious institutions over African American history in order to see the progress of accepting and recognizing Black women. 

Benbow also discusses her view on deconstructing Faith in order to create the space for herself and many other Black women to be acknowledged for their devotion within their denomination. The author explains how Black women are the most religious demographic, yet they are the least significant group rendered in most religious establishments. She aims to embody a Faith that loves and accepts Black women. Religion is essential in understanding African American history because its roots run deep into Black culture. For example, “the sense that devotion and faith in God more strongly connect black men and women to their slave ancestors, who leaned on religious faith to help maintain their dignity in the face of discrimination and harsh and unjust treatment” (Labbé-DeBose, 2012). This quote demonstrates the importance of Faith within the daily lives of African American individuals throughout the generations, and how it intertwines their experience and livelihood. The author emphasizes the need for a more inclusive Faith in order to keep her community united and satisfied. 

For hundreds of years, Black women have strongly influenced religion and culture in and outside of their community, with little to no recognition of their hard work. Candice Marie Benbow’s talk at our University enlightened myself, and many other students on her journey of modern Black womanhood, and the challenges she and her community experience within their daily lives as well as their Faith. The author shared with the audience that she got inspired to write her book to further examine the question of what is owed to Black women for their devoted religiosity, and how her community can shine. She also explains how deconstructing Faith and identifying the issues within her religion can help her community thrive.Her novel emphasizes the current relationship between Black womanhood and Christianity, and looks ahead to a turning point where her community is recognized and appreciated for their generations of dedication and diligence. 


Sources Cited

Labbé-DeBose, Theola. “Black Women Are among Country’s Most Religious Groups.” The Washington Post, 6 July 2012, 

White, Deborah Gray, Mia Bay, and Waldo E. Martin Jr. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans with Documents, Third Edition. Bedford/St. Martin’s, (2020).

Womanism – Andres Perez

Andres Perez

Dr. Miller

African American History



Throughout history, African American women have faced numerous challenges that have deeply impacted their lives. These struggles have ranged from economic hardships, such as navigating the welfare system, to reproductive rights, and societal double standards. Black women have had to navigate systemic racism and sexism in order to obtain basic human rights and achieve equality. Although feminism has played a significant role in the fight for women’s rights, African American women’s unique demands and experiences have not been sufficiently addressed by it. The complex interconnectedness of race, gender, and class that affects the lives of black women, is better addressed within the context of womanism. Despite their efforts to fight for their rights, black women’s voices have often been silenced and their experiences marginalized and womanism fulfills the need for a movement that accurately represents and advocates for their experiences. 

Womanism was created from the necessity of a distinction from feminism. Feminism historically has been the movement women have rallied behind to battle against oppression. However as society progressed and more social issues were confronted it became obvious that feminism did not cater to all women, mainly black women. Womanism is a fairly recent term that started gaining recognition in the late 1900’s, as it was a term used by the famous black female author Alice Walker. Walker brought attention to the concept and this made others realize that the issues that black women faced were far different and more severe than what other women were experiencing. While feminism addressed the issues between gender, it did not address race or class within these gender groups. In order to understand the condition of black women in America, one must first understand their connection with religion. On top of the horrible racism that came out of slavery, black women also had to deal with immense sexual violence from men of all races. Many black women turned to religion as a way to keep pushing through their hardships. Oftentimes the community that a church offered was one of the few things available to these women as a refuge. This sense of community was a place where black women could come together, share their experiences, and find solace in their faith offering a sense of hope for a better future. Given this context, the first place I was ever exposed to womanism was in an African Religion class at the University of San Diego. This class delved into what God meant to different people, especially those so marginalized. For black women their personal relationship with God was a form of resistance against the male dominated religious institutions that have been used to excuse mistreatment against them. 

The book Red Lip Theology by Candace Marie Benbow is a perfect representation of a modern day black women’s perspective on navigating the mentioned struggles. I attended a presentation at the University of San Diego for the authors book tour. Throughout the presentation the author spoke more personally and in depth about the process and inspirations for writing the book which was followed by a question and answer session. Interestingly enough my professor from the mentioned African Religion class also attended the event and as it turns out he is good friends with the author. This was a great experience for me because it allowed me to see how interconnected my journey of education on this topic was. Both the author and my previous professor had taken inspiration from the concepts presented by Alice Walker, mainly from her book The Color Purple, which exemplifies the core meaning of this essay. Alice Walker was also famously quoted as saying “womanism is to feminism, as purple is to lavender”. Walker’s quote can be broken down as lavender being a pale shade of purple, representing the limited scope of feminism that is often exclusive to white women, while purple, on the other hand, represents the colorful and varied viewpoints of womanism. An important aspect of Red Lip Theology was that the author was born to a single mother in a judgmental black parish. The author mentioned that there was a lot of judgment and shame passed on to her family because her mother had a child out of wedlock. However as the author matured she realized the hypocrisy of the situation considering the only person that had to confront the “sin” of having a premarital child was her mother because as a woman you cannot hide the fact you are pregnant. She realized that men in this situation can easily distance themselves and stay hidden unless exposed by the mother. This saves them from taking accountability for their actions as well even though they have an equal part to play in the matter. Ms. Benbow struggled with many societal constructs pushed on her by the church which troubled her relationship with her faith, however much like in The Color Purple, Ms. Benbow was able to build her own personal relationship with God that allowed her to use her faith as something that empowered her rather than something that pushed stigmas on to her. 

It is important to recognize the movements and groups that initially paved the way for black women’s rights in the 1960’s and 70’s. At the time the civil rights movement was in full swing and this finally allowed for more advocacy of black women’s rights. The National Welfare Rights Organization, also known as the NWRO, was an organization mentioned in the book Freedom On My Mind, by Deborah Gray White, Mia Bay, and Waldo E. Martin Jr., which was one of many organizations fighting for black women’s rights at the time. In particular for Black women who experienced systemic discrimination in the welfare system, the NWRO played a key role in the fight for economic justice and civil rights in the United States. The NWRO’s support of welfare rights and the creation of a federal minimum income for all Americans was one of its major achievements. By giving Black women the tools and assistance they needed to fight for their rights, the group was also instrumental in enabling them to become leaders in their communities. The NWRO was important to feminism because it gave Black women a platform to establish their political agency and fight for their rights as both women and members of the underclass. The group’s emphasis on welfare rights was a response to the systematic sexism and racism Black women experienced inside the welfare system, and its work brought attention to the intersectional nature of oppression. Together, the NWRO and Black feminist organizations were successful in enacting key policy reforms, such as the implementation of food stamps and the expansion of Medicaid, that helped to better the lives of low-income women and children. This along with many other movements and groups have been instrumental in giving young black women such as Candice Marie Benbow the opportunity to voice their stories and inspire others which only continues the progression of the womanism movement, which still has much to accomplish.  




Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. New York, Harcourt, 1992.

White, Deborah G., et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins, 2021. 

Benbow, Candice Marie. Red Lip Theology: For Church Girls Who’ve Considered Tithing to the Beauty Supply Store When Sunday Morning Isn’t Enough. Convergent Books, 2022.