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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TAMU chapter.

Last week, the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM) opened an exciting exhibit that sheds light on the impact of Black feminists in DC. We Who Believe in Freedom: Black Feminist DC highlights Black women whose work inspired nationwide change. Let’s dive deeper into what this exhibit has to offer:

Who curated it?

This exhibit is a collaborative effort between two historians who focus on Black feminism in the US. Sheri M Randolph, an associate professor of history at Georgia Tech, has taught African studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and has served as the Associate Director of the Women’s Resource Center at Spelman College. She founded Black Feminist Think Tank at Georgia Tech to uplift Black women through scholarship and activism, and has been awarded fellowships from the University of Connecticut and Brown. Currently, she has published Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: the Life of a Black Radical Feminist and is working on her second publication.

Kendra Taira Field is an associate professor of history at Tufts University and she serves as director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy. Field has led the African American Trail Project at Tufts in order to recognize the historical and current struggle Black women face. Additionally, she is a Project Historian at the DuBois Freedom Center, and the chief historian for the 10 Millions Hands Project there. Her upcoming novel, The Stories We Tell, focuses on Black genealogy and the Middle Passage.

Who does it feature?

Black feminists throughout history are being added through the exhibit. Currently, the online gallery features 10 biographies:

Mary church terrell (1863-1954)

Terrell advocated for racial uplift – the idea that Black people could uplift each other through community, education, and activism. In 1892, her friend Thomas Moss was lynched by competing white business owners and her focus shifted towards anti-lynching campaigns. Terrell became known for her campaigns in Black suffrage, where she even picketed the White House. As one of the founders of the NAACP, Terrell went on to challenge the status quo in anti-discrimination lawsuits and segregation. One particular legal victory of hers even led to a 1953 Supreme Court overruling of laws that upheld segregated dining facilities.

Dr. Dorothy bounding ferebee (1898-1980)

Ferebee was one of five women in her medical school graduating class of 1924. Despite facing unfair treatment, she graduated in the top five but struggled to find work, as most hospitals at the time only accepted white candidates. She was offered a position at Freedman’s Hospital in DC and pioneered contraception and sex education for women. In 1929, Ferebee founded the Southeast Neighborhood House, which provided medical care in African-American neighborhoods, and went on to sponsor the Mississippi Health Project, a volunteer program that provided medical assistance to Black sharecroppers in the Jim Crow South. Helping vaccinate over 15,000 children against smallpox, she went on to serve as a delegate at the World Health Organization’s 20th convention, the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau, and UNICEF.

Ophelia settle egypt (1903-1984)

Inspired by Black intellectuals, Egypt became inspired to make a change in her community from a young age. Upon receiving her graduate degree, she began researching social work at the University of Pennsylvania and became the first Black woman to receive PhD’s in economics and sociology. During the 1950s, Egypt served as a social worker for marginalized DC communities, and advocated for reproductive rights. She opened the Parkland Planned Parenthood and joined the DC Black Writer’s Workshop, speaking out on the experiences of reproductive health for women of color.

pauli Murray (1910-1985) *used she/he/they pronouns

Murray graduated high school at just 15 and went on to attend Hunter College, an all-womens university in New York City. Working odd jobs in Harlem, they met prominent artists such as Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, and Duke Ellington. While in college, Murray struggled with gender identity and what they dubbed “Jane Crow” – the intersection of racism and sexism – after being denied from both Harvard and Columbia despite excelling in their classes. In an effort to counter segregation, Murray wrote States’ Laws on Race and Color, which then became so popular, Justice Thurgood Marshall called it the Bible of Brown v Board of Education. Murray became the first Black woman to receive a JSD from Yale and went on to serve the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).

Dr. dorothy height (1912-2010)

Starting out as a social worker in Harlem and leader of the local Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), Height shifted her focus to activism in ending lynchings and reforming the criminal justice system. In 1957, she became president of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) where she championed voter registration in the South for 40 years. During the March on Washington, Height was on the front lines, earning her a Citizen’s Medal Award and Congressional Gold Medal. Her council was often sought by Eleanor Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and other prominent politicians who considered her knowledge unmatched.

Eleanor holmes norton (1937-present)

Norton, who served as a volunteer for the Mississippi Health Project, became a civil rights lawyer at the ACLU. She rose to fame in 1970 for her case against Newsweek, who refused to hire female journalists. After the case, Norton served as the first woman appointed to the New York Commission on Human Rights and eventually the EEOC, where she changed laws that allowed discrimination on the basis of sex. For the past 17 years, she has dedicated her life to representing DC as a delegate in Congress, where she serves on the Committee of Transportation and Infrastructure as well as the Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Mary Treadwell (1941-2012)

Treadwell was a prominent figure in Nashville’s desegregation sit-ins as well as the local NAACP chapter. In 1967, she cofounded Youth Pride, an organization dedicated to addressing job insecurity, and championed causes such as reproductive rights, the antiwar movement, and prison reform. Treadwell was a prominent member of the Women’s Commission on Abortion and Forced Sterilization, and went on to serve as the head of Youth Pride after her husband left. During her time, she provided low-income housing to DC residents.

BErnice Johnson Reagon (1942-present)

Reagon advocated through music, organizing the Freedom Singers to raise money for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1973, she founded the female acapella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, that promoted themes of justice, respect, and equality. The group went on to receive 3 Grammy nominations and toured worldwide, including at the UN Decade for Women conference. In 1974, Reagon joined the Smithsonian’s Division of Performing Arts and African Dispora where she curated two installations: Wade in the Water: African American Sacred Music Traditions and Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom Songs. She received a Presidential Medal in 1995 for her work in humanities.

Nkenge toure (1951-present)

In high school, Toure was a founding member of Black Voice, an organization that aligned with the Black Power movement – the idea that emphasized Black resilience over integration. Toure and her peers frequently led demonstrations and protests, leading her to the Black Panther party in 1971. Disappointed with the rigidity of gender roles within the party, she founded Save The People, a local foundation that provided free meals, healthcare, and prison reform initiatives. Toure worked with fellow activist Loretta Ross to establish programs in the DC Rape Crisis Center such as workshops and educational programs, serving as the Director of Community Education for 13 years.

Loretta Ross (1953-present)

After giving birth to her son following a sexual assault at 15, Ross was denied entry back into high school. Instead, she transferred and continued her education at Howard University, where she became involved in the Black Nationalist movement on campus that addressed local housing issues. Ross continued her activism with the City Wide Housing Coalition and following medical malpractice that cost her her reproductive organs, became engrossed in reproductive rights. In 1979, she became the Executive Director of the DC Rape Crisis Center, where she led community outreach regarding sexual violence among Black women. Eventually, Ross expanded this to include all women of color by established womens’ shelters. She continues to speak out against reproductive injustice and is a co-founder of SisterSong, an organization dedicated to reproductive rights in marginalized communities.

Where can i learn more?

The exhibit’s website can be found here. For the latest updates, visit the NWHM’s Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram. For other questions, comments, or concerns, NWHM can be reached by email at history@womenshistory.org.

Katie is a junior accounting major and second year a staff writer for HerCampus at TAMU. She mainly writes about cultural discourse, local events on campus or in the Bryan-College Station area, and her personal experiences. Beyond HerCampus, Katie served for two years as a peer mentor for the Freshman Business Initiative, helping freshmen through career training activities such as resume workshops and mock interviews. She was also a member of the social committee for Freshman Aggie Ladies Leading where she helped plan social events. This summer, she's excited to start her first internship in audit at a CPA firm in Dallas. After graduating with her Bachelor's in accounting, she hopes to pursue an MBA. In her free time, Katie enjoys listening to pop music, reading, watching movies, and playing Animal Crossing. She is obsessed with smush-faced dogs (especially bulldogs and pugs), the color pink, and collecting Funko Pop dolls. Katie can be spotted at Velvet Taco, Chipotle, or at various thrift shops around College Station.