Mary McLeod Bethune was the most influential black woman in the United States through more than three decades. Her remarkable skills as a leader and her ability as an orator enabled her to translate the problems of Afro-Americans into terms that brought national attention. Although she favored conciliation over confrontation, she persisted throughout her career in seeking for all blacks, but especially for black women, the opportunity for education and for the chance to emerge from the social and political invisibility that kept them oppressed. Battling for the creation of united Afro-American political and organizational efforts, she pushed blacks to a keener recognition of the federal government's potential to advance the race, and to an awareness that they should work to influence government policies.
A distinguished journalist and civil rights activist, Ida B. Wells-Barnett was one of the most outspoken, radical, and militant African American voices during the Jim Crow era. Although she would make her most enduring contribution as a crusader against the crime of lynching, she spent her life fighting the injustice of racial discrimination in its many forms.
Hailed as America’s first black female political writer, Maria W. Stewart was an intensely active abolitionist writer and speaker. She was the first African American woman to speak before a mixed-gender audience and to leave texts of her speeches. Stewart was much more than an abolitionist, however, as she addressed varied subjects such as religion, anticolonization, political and economic exploitation, black self-determination, and women’s rights.
A former Mississippi sharecropper, Fannie Lou Hamer made history during the 1960s when she worked as the field secretary of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Not only did Hamer labor tirelessly to help local blacks become enfranchised, she also helped found the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), which planned the Freedom Summer of 1964. Perhaps most notably she is remembered for her role in the founding of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) and for delivering a moving testimony for the party on national television.
Entered the U.S. House of Representatives in 1991, representing California. An advocate for veterans’ affairs, improvements in housing in inner cities, and better enforcement of the federal anti-redlining law.