Monthly Archives: February 2018

Rosa Parks

Audiences best know Rosa Parks for her refusal to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, which impacted the Civil Rights Movement and led to a city-wide boycott of the transit system, but her story doesn’t begin or end there. Continue reading

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Malcolm X and Intellectual Courage

As a professional student of American history, there are many reasons why I have an enormous respect for Malcolm X. The most powerful of these reasons, however, is also the simplest: he was a man who never feared to change his mind. Continue reading

Not Just Black & White: Dido Elizabeth Belle

In the halls of Kenwood House, a mysterious portrait has fascinated art scholars for hundreds of years. On paper the story seems generic. The Earl and Countess of Mansfield commissioned it, and it portrays their two nieces, Dido Elizabeth Belle and Elizabeth Murray. It’s only when you look at the portrait you see the story, in particular that of the woman on the left, Dido. Dido had an unusual circumstance, she was a mixed-race noblewoman in 18th Century England. More crucially, this portrait depicts both Dido and Elizabeth in equal stature, at a time when any non-white subjects was portrayed in a subservient (if not outright racist) position. This portrait is a main plot device in Amma Asante’s 2013 film Belle, chronicling the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, and her unique social position. Continue reading

More than Mammy: The Life of Hattie McDaniel

The situation for African-American actors in Hollywood is a constant topic of discussion in the industry, and for good reason because it needs improvement. (Remember the #OscarsSoWhite controversy a couple years back?) Black History Month seems like the perfect time to look back at the past for a source of inspiration that black actors working today can utilize going forward. The first African-American Oscar nominee and winner was Hattie McDaniel for 1939’s Gone With the Wind. She won for Best Supporting Actress. Hattie McDaniel’s Academy Award win is an undeniable example of why she is a fascinating pioneer. Continue reading

The Love Story That Changed a Kingdom

How much social prejudice would you endure to change the world?

In the 1940s, the interracial marriage of Prince Seretse Khama, heir to the Bechuanaland throne, to an English clerk, Ruth Williams, shocked the world. The couple faced criticism from his royal uncle, but soon won over the people of his nation, who were reluctant to lose his leadership. Having banned interracial marriage, the South African government exerted pressure on the United Kingdom to have him removed from power. Since England relied on inexpensive South African gold and uranium, they investigated his leadership, then suppressed the report (which found him fit to rule) and sent him and his wife into exile in 1951. Continue reading

The Remarkable Mary Seacole

Alongside Florence Nightingale, known as the “Lady with the Lamp,” was another woman who improved the desperate conditions of soldiers in the Crimean War—Mary Seacole. For this edition of Femnista, I hope to show the racial prejudices, personal, and financial struggles this remarkable woman faced in caring for her fellow human beings. Continue reading

To Sidney, with Love

Sidney Poitier. How do I describe a man who stood beside Martin Luther King Jr. during his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963? How do I describe a man who often was the only African American on the set of his movies? How do I describe a man who makes me laugh and breaks my heart because I know the beleaguered characters of racial injustice he played was also a role he lived? Continue reading

Celebrating Black Heroes

This month, Femnista celebrates remarkable individuals throughout history who have left an impression on us, either through their contributions to social advancement, entertainment, or who lived extraordinary lives simply because society would not allow them to do otherwise. We invite you to join us as we explore some of our favorites, and share your heroes with us in the comments! Continue reading