By Reverend Herbert Daughtry
This week I celebrate the following women:
Harriet Tubman, Dorchester, MD
Her great contribution was to succeed in freeing some have said. The fact that she, a free woman, would go back into the bowels of slavery risking her life to lead enslaved persons to freedom. She said, “I could’ve freed more if they knew they were slaves.”
Ida B. Wells, Holly Springs, MS
This courageous woman fought against lynching. It was during a time when lynching was prevalent across America. She was threatened but she continued her crusade against this horrendous crime. Lynching had become the great American pastime. In many cities lynching was like a picnic. Families would gather bringing food and drink. Even churches were let out early to enjoy the horrendous acts. Sometimes, mutilation would occur and parts of the body would be sold as souvenirs. Ida B Wells was a gallant courageous fighter who risked everything.
Fannie Lou Hamer, Montgomery, MS
Fannie fought for voting rights. She was jailed, she was beaten but it didn’t deter her from continuing to fight for the right to vote. She registered Democratic voters into and to be the legitimate Democratic party to be seated at the Democratic Convention.
Corretta Scott King, Heirberger, AL
Once her husband the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, she picked up the mantle of leadership and continued the fight for freedom. Like her husband hers was a global mission. She was a part of the peace movement and advocated for the least of the world. Two memories come to mind, one was at the death of her husband. I was in Atlanta for the funeral, we had a viewing at the church and then an open-air ceremony, in which the legendary Dr. Benjamin E. Mays was the eulogist. I was standing on the steps of Morehouse College outside and she passed by. I was mesmerized as I looked into her eyes, there was deep pain but also deep determination to endure the loss of her husband and to fight on. The second memory is June 12, 1982, we had organized over a million people to demand nuclear disarmament. I passed her by in Central Park where we gathered after the rally in front of the UN. She sat beside Ruby Dee. She had that same look of deep sadness and deep determination.
Dr. Betty Shabazz, Detroit, MI
Dr. Shabazz and I were great friends. I had the highest admiration for her, in some sense she was similar to Mrs. King in that she had to raise up fatherless children and neither one was known to be an out-front leader but when their husbands were assassinated, they raised their families and continued the struggle. Dr. Betty was a frequent visitor to our church, she was always present for any major event. When my wife along with Julie Belafonte co-chaired the Women’s committee welcoming Nelson and Winnie Mandela to New York upon his release from prison. Winnie Mandela was celebrated in Brooklyn as well as elsewhere. But her first public speaking was at our church. My wife had also organized Sisters Against South African Apartheid (SASA) for the freedom of South Africa and Nelson Mandela. Dr. Shabazz was a part of the celebration. She went back to school to earn a doctorate degree.
And I could go on and on about women who have made great contributions. I could say whatever promise we’ve made could not be achieved without our women of African ancestry. Indeed one could argue there would not be a United States of America without our women.