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African-American Studies

The struggles and achievements of African-American women between Reconstruction and the present era

Introduction

This discussion focuses on struggles and achievements of African American women between the reconstruction periods up to present time. Precisely, it embraces reflection profiles of nineteen century African American women, inevitably, comparing them with the twenty first century evolutionary manifestations now present in our society. It is true that all over the world women collectively or individually as a social gender have been marginalized to the mercy of male chauvinism.

Just as how slaves, struggled for their freedom in the same magnitude women have propelled deliverance of their gender from discrimination and exploitation over the centuries. In the African American context women explored every opportunity for removing demoralizing effects of slavery and other aspects of structured inequality from their sphere of existence setting the stage for redefining the role of women, internationally.

As such, this author will reflect primarily on where African American women are in today’s society; from where they emerged during the reconstruction; ultimately linking their experiences to impacts of feminist perspective. This encompassed how they are now valued being more than merely sex objects, bodies to bear children and targets of physical and emotional abuse. While all the achievements during this period of African American women evolution from reconstruction cannot be addressed in a four page document highlights within decades will we acknowledged as their exemplary contributions to society are exemplified.

The twenty first century emergence of African

American women through reconstruction:

Political Achievements

When one reflects that African American women in the nineteenth century did not have the right to vote it most appropriate to begin this segment of the discourse with an analysis of African American women in politics. In twenty-first century politics an African American woman by the name of Condoleezza Rice became the first to serve as Secretary of State under President George Bush’s political administration. She was also the first African American woman to serve as National Security Advisor even though she was openly criticized for her unpopular views regarding the war in Iraq (Williams, 2006).

Prior to this twenty- first century interim and reconstruction era 13 African American women served in the 112th  congress along with 239 as state legislators. By early twentieth century they took courage to be nominated presidential candidates in a number of campaigns while being mocked and classified non-viable. Most courageous of them all was a stalwart by the name of

Shirley Chisholm nominated as presidential candidate in 1972. She gained a total of 152 votes at the Democratic National Convention, despite rejection by male opposition forces, while losing the presidential nomination. In 1993 Carol Moseley Braun became the first African American woman to hold office of senator being elected to the United States Senate emerging from Illinois (Smooth, 2010).

As African American women battle for recognition it must be understood that without sterling contributions of Sojourner Truth, who fearlessly addressed the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio, on May 29, 1851, achievements recorded in twenty-first century history might not be possible. This profound presentation was later captioned by news reporters as   “Ain’t I A Woman?” Even though it was not until 1920 that African American women legally were able  to vote her work made a tremendous impact in American politics between reconstruction and the twenty-first century African American female politician we see today (Smooth, 2010).

Professional Achievements

Professional African American women have risen to prominence in many leading careers moving away from their traditional positions of slaves and wives towards judges, lawyers physicians, consultants, advanced nurse practitioners, pilots, engineers, architects and entrepreneurs. To date African American women hold administrative positions in their expertise and earn the same pay as their male counterparts, which was impossible during nineteen and even early twentieth centuries while reconstruction was occurring (Smooth, 2010).

For example, during President Carter’s term of office he appointed the first seven African American women judges and some were even added to the Court of Appeal justice system. They included Anna Diggs Taylor (Michigan); Gabrielle Kirk McDonald (Texas); Anne E. Thompson (New Jersey); Consuelo B. Marshall (California) and Claire Williams. Further, twentieth century appointees of succeeding presidencies were Saundra Brown Armstrong and Carol Jackson.

American Women Judges, however, owe this legacy to a champion is the caliber of Jane Bolin, the first African American woman lawyer to graduate from Yale Law School after years of segregated educational polices in America. She was the only black student in her class of three females. Subsequently, she became the first woman judge and served in that capacity for 40 years retiring at age 70. She died in 2007 at the age of 91 (McLeod, 2011).

A twenty first-century African American woman, who is making an impact in American social structure at a significant level as White House Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison, is Valerie Jarrett. She signifies the tedious reconstruction path African American women traveled towards twenty-first century prominence. Apart from being a lawyer she is a professional business woman. This is represented in her profile as CEO of ‘The Habitat Company;’ member of the Chicago Stock Exchange earning a yearly income of over $300,000. Analysts have advanced that Valarie Jarret is the most likely replacement for President Obama in the senate after this presidential tour of duty (King, 2008).

Conclusion:

Influence of feminist perspective

It is often contended that the feminist’s perspective/movement championed the reconstruction revolution from early nineteen century (when African American women were comparatively oppressed in their communities) towards twenty-first first century achievements. This can be supported by Sojourner Truth’s eloquent delivery, which was further captioned from a feminist’s perspective “Ain’t I A Woman?” (Smooth, 2010).  Clearly, the Declaration of Sentiments in early nineteen century outlined feminists’ perspectives also regarding how African American women ought to be fairly treated in relation to their male counterparts as well as white women within the social structure (Smooth, 2010).

Precisely, analysts have descried the influence of American feminism within the context of three waves. The first waved was highlighted as the mid/late 1800’s when women in the caliber of Sojourner Truth took the forefront in establishing the meaning of being an African American woman. This era ended in 1920’s when women achieved the right to vote. A second wave emerging after the end of World War 11when African American women joined the labor force and performed comparable in the same capacity as their male counterparts (Gerhard, 2001).

However, they were paid lower wages than men and whites; besides being denied educational opportunities and promotion. This fueled the feminists’ perspective/movement into moving beyond the boundaries written with the Declaration of Sentiment document into creating the National Organization for Women (NOW) headed by a white woman Betty Friedan. Black women representation encompassed a personality in the caliber of Brooklyn born scholar Aileen Clarke Hernández (Gerhard, 2001)          

Third wave feminism emerged from the consciousness of an African American 22 year old woman, Rebecca Walker, who realized that women were still oppressed in United States of America. She cited that they did not have a voice regarding sexual harassment in the work place, which became a new phase of gender discrimination. As such, focus of this third wave had propelled advancement from twenty-first century stero-typing of African American women in more gender/sexuality tolerance in the society. These can be credited towards the feminists’ perspective of gender equality in America (Gerhard, 2001)

 Works cited

Gerhard, Jane . Desiring revolution: second-wave feminism and the rewriting of American sexual thought, 1920 to 1982. New York: Columbia University Press. 2001. Print

McLeod, Jacqueline. Daughter of the Empire State: The Life of Judge Jane Bolin. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2011.Print

King, John. Obama wants Valerie Jarrett to replace him in Senate. CNNPolitics.com. 2008. Print

Smooth, W.G. Standing at the crossroads Crisis. Crisis Publications Inc. Vol 117, No 2; pp 14–20. 2010. Print

Williams, R.Y. Black women, urban politics, and engendering black power. New York: Routledge . 2006. Print