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Honoring African American Feminists Throughout History

Statement by NOW President Toni Van Pelt and Vice President Christian F. Nunes

02.01.2020
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Each February, the National Organization for Women commemorates Black History Month to honor the lives of African Americans who have shaped our nation and its culture. Our country and our communities would not be the same without the efforts of people of color, who work tirelessly in the face of oppression.

African American women have been fierce advocates for gender equality for centuries, from suffragists Anna Julia Cooper and the founders of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority to civil rights leaders Ida B. Wells and Sojourner Truth. In more recent years we’ve witnessed history as Nevada State Senator Pat Spearman kicked off the modern Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) movement and Virginia Delegates Jennifer D. Carroll Foy and Hala Ayala championed the ERA in Virginia, which just became the historic 38th state to ratify.

Thanks to these women and many others, progress has been made, but we must never underestimate the insidious racism that continues to plague our country in the form of discrimination in employment, health care, housing, the justice system and voting rights. That is why NOW is co-hosting our Racial Justice Summit with U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) on Feb.10th, which aims to create conversation about the intersection of gender, health, economics, violence and race.

Black History Month highlights the importance of intersectional feminism. Black lesbian civil rights activist and feminist Audre Lorde famously said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are different from my own.” As firm believers of this approach to advocacy, NOW is committed to breaking down the barriers to gender and racial equality that have restricted women of color for centuries.