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Famous African American Women from Kansas

Famous African American Women From Kansas


In honor of Black History Month, here is a look at a few of the most prominent African American women throughout Kansas history.

Linda Brown

Although you may not recognize her first name, it is very likely that you have heard of Linda Brown’s story. Linda is the Brown in question in one of the American court’s most famous cases, Brown v. Board of Education. Brown and her family lived only four blocks away from the nearest elementary school, but she was not allowed to attend it because it was considered for whites only. When her father, with the help of the NAACP, filed a lawsuit against the Board of Education, the story became nationwide news and raised serious questions about segregation and its impact on education. After winning the case, Brown attended an integrated junior high and studied at both Washburn and Kansas State. Brown has stated several times that she felt exploited by the media attention regarding her case, but nevertheless continued speaking as a public figure on Civil Rights.

Hattie McDaniel

Wichita native Hattie McDaniel was an influential African American actress during the 1940’s. McDaniel began her as a singer, performing around the country with an orchestra and a vaudeville group, eventually going solo as a blues artist. In the 1930’s she moved to Los Angeles and perform on her brother’s radio show, becoming one of the first black women ever to make a radio appearance. This radio appearance launched her acting career and let to her most famous role, the house servant Mammy in Gone With The Wind. Despite not being allowed to attend the film’s premiere in Georgia because of her race, McDaniel won an Oscar for her role as Mammy and became the first African American, male or female, to win an Academy Award.

Gwendolyn Brooks

Lauded African American poet Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka in 1917, but moved to Chicago when she was six years old. The injustices that she came across going to an integrated High School in the 1930s became a key source of inspiration for her later writings. Brooks was an extremely talented poet and had published over 75 poems by the time she was sixteen. Her first book, a collection of poetry called A Street in Bronzeville, was published in 1945. Four years later, Annie Allen was published and became a critical success, earning Brooks the esteemed honor of being the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize

Source: biography.com

Marissa Ventrelli is a Freshman at the University of Kansas majoring in journalism. She currently writes for Her Campus and takes photos for her school's newspaper, the Daily Kansan. Her goal is to become a photojournalist for National Geographic but also to own several dogs and have a pathetically impressive collection of nut butters. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, hiking, volunteering, and writing about herself in the third person. After graduation, she hopes to move to Oregon where she will mock its citizens while simultaneously identifying with them on a deep level. 
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