Unlike the uneducated boor on Pennsylvania Avenue most Americans are familiar with Juneteenth. At this poignant, harrowing, chaotic time I hope that my simple words can help in the push for equality that should have been given to Black people in 1619. Here are few women, much braver than I, who worked towards the freeing of humans from slavery in the US. The recent movie, Harriet, has brought one women’s story to our current generation. Another Black woman, Sojurner Truth, many are familiar with for her famous speech at the 1851 Women's Rights Convention held in Akron, Ohio, ‘And ain’t I a woman?’ 


Maria Stewart

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Maria Stewart was a free-born African American, a teacher, a journalist, a lecturer, an abolitionist, and a women's rights activist. She was also the first American woman to speak to a mixed audience of men and women, white and black, speaking of women's rights and against –slavery.

Maria Stewart began her activist career in 1831 by writing essays and making speeches against slavery, promoting educational and economic self-sufficiency for blacks. Two of her two pamphlets were published by The Liberator, entitled ‘Religion and the Pure Principles of Morality, the Sure Foundation on Which We Must Build’ (which advocated abolition and black autonomy) in 1831, and another of religious meditations, ‘Meditations from the Pen of Mrs. Maria Stewart’ (1832).

She was a public speaker for three years giving her last public speech in 1833 before retiring to work only for women's organizations and as teacher and head matron at Freedmen's Hospital, where she eventually died.

One reason for her brief career was an address at the Boston’s African Masonic Lodge, February 1833, where she claimed that black men lacked "ambition and requisite courage". Not surprisingly this caused an uproar among the audience and soon ended her brief lecturing career. Stewart decided to retire from giving lectures with her final speaking engagement seven months later, where she gave a farewell address at a schoolroom in the African Meeting House.

Despite her brief career in speaking she heavily influenced African American women speakers like Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman, among others.

"Every man has a right to express his opinion. Many think, because your skins are tinged with a sable hue, that you are an inferior race of beings ... Then why should one worm say to another, Keep you down there, while I sit up yonder; for I am better than thou. It is not the color of the skin that makes the man, but it is the principle formed within the soul.” Maria Stewart

Sarah Parker Remond

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Sarah Parker Remond was born in 1824. the ninth child of two free born Black parents who were relatively financially secure. They were invested in food catering and hair salons and the extended family were active in antislavery and equal rights for all.

The Remonds' home was a popular place for Black and White abolitionists hosting many of the movement's leaders, including William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips. They often housed and protected fugitive slaves fleeing north to freedom. John Remond was a life member of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.

She her first lecture against slavery at the age of 16, with her brother Charles in Groton, Massachusetts, in July 1842. Despite her inexperience, Remond rapidly became a successful speaker. William Lloyd Garrison, a prominent American abolitionist, journalist, suffragist, and social reformer, praised her "calm, dignified manner, her winning personal appearance and her earnest appeals to the conscience and the heart." Sarah Clay, a tailor-ess and Secretary of the Lowell Female Anti-Slavery Society, wrote that Remond's every word "waked up dormant aspirations which would vibrate through the ages.", She went on to became one of the society's most effective lecturers.

When she refused to sit in a segregated theater section, Sarah gained attention among abolitionists in 1853. She had bought tickets by post for herself and a group of friends, but when they arrived at the theatre, Remond and her party were shown to segregated seating. Because she refused to move, she was physically forced to leave the theatre and pushed down some stairs. This did not deter Sarah and she sued for damages, winning her case and awarded $500, plus an admission by theatre management that she was wronged. The court further ordered the theater to integrate all seating for the future.

In 1856, Sarah and her brother, Charles, along with Susan B. Anthony were hired by the American Anti-Slavery Society to a lecture tour of New York State addressing anti-slavery issues. Over the next two years, she, her brother, and others spoke in New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Sadly, typical of the time, Sarah and other African Americans were often given poor accommodation due to racial discrimination despite their fame and popularity.

Abby Kelley Foster a noted abolitionist in Massachusetts wrote of Sarah on December 28, 1858:

“I feel almost sure I never should have made the attempt but for the words of encouragement I received from you. Although my heart was in the work, I felt that I was in need of a good English education ... When I consider that the only reason why I did not obtain what I so much desired was because I was the possessor of an unpopular complexion, it adds to my discomfort.”

Remond moved to England and studied at the London University College, graduating as a nurse. At the age of 42 in 1867, she permanently left London to Florence where she studied at the Santa Maria Nuova Hospital School (one of the most prestigious medical schools in Europe) as a medical student. Remond finished her studies and become a doctor, remaining in Florence practicing medicine for more than 20 years, never returning to the United States.

She met and married Lazzaro Pintor in Italy, on April 25, 1877.

Remond died on December 13, 1894, in Rome. She is interred at the Protestant Cemetery in Rome.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

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One of the first African American women to be published in the United States, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, an abolitionist, suffragist, poet, teacher, public speaker, and writer published her first book of poetry at the age of 20. Frances was born free in Baltimore, Maryland, her career was long and abundant. She published her widely praised novel,Iola Leroy at the age of 67. Her biggest commercial success was a collection: Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects. Frances made Anglo-African literary history with her short story "Two Offers” as the first short story published by a black woman.

She made a living as a young woman teaching sewing at Union Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, a school affiliated with the AME Church. She also helped refugee slaves make their way along the Underground Railroad on their way to Canada. In 1853 she began her career as a public speaker and political activist after joining the American Anti-Slavery Society. She remained active most of her life as superintendent of the Colored Section of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Women's Christian Temperance Union and helping to found the National Association of Colored Women and serving as its vice president. Harper died aged 85 on February 22, 1911, nine years before women gained the right to vote.


Deborah Baron

Deborah Baron

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