Elizabeth Freeman, first known as Mum Bett or Mumbet, was born around 1742 to African parents who were enslaved by Pieter Hogeboom in Claverack, New York. Hogeboom’s daughter Hannah married Col. John Ashley of Sheffield, Massachusetts, and Bett, most likely inherited by Hannah in 1758, moved to their household.
The story of her leaving the Ashley household varies. They state that Hannah, in an angry fit, tried to hit Bett’s younger sister Lizzie with a heated kitchen shovel. Bett, stood in the way and was hit instead, causing a deep wound. Bett left, and refused to come back. When Col. Ashley asked the law to bring back his “property,” Bett contacted lawyer Theodore Sedgwick. Stories recount that when Sedgwick inquired as to how she got the idea that she deserved to be free, she said “By keepin’ still and mindin’ things.” Continue reading Mum Bett and the Freedom Suit (Elizabeth Freeman)
Maggie Lena Walker (1867-1934) spent her life dedicated to improving the status of African-Americans and women, particularly through economic empowerment. She was the first woman in America to found and serve as president of a bank. She was also a leader in her community, a great orator, a successful businesswoman and a philanthropist. This is a just a brief summation of Walker’s accomplishments – how she became all of these things, considering where she started in life, is a testament to her drive and determination and an accomplishment in itself. Continue reading Maggie Lena Walker
Sarah was born on 6 June 1826 in Salem, Massachusetts, the second youngest child of the ten offspring of John and Nancy Remond. Salem was 14 miles from Boston and Sarah says that it contained “about 25,000 inhabitants, who are characterised by general intelligence, industry and enterprise and few towns in the States can boats of more wealth and refinement than Salem.” Continue reading Sarah Parker Remond
Vernie Merze Tate was born to Charles & Myrtle K. (Lett) Tate February 6, 1905 in Blanchard, Michigan. Born on her family’s farm in rural Isabella County, as a child Merze walked nine miles to school, time which she spent memorizing poetry or historic battles. Both her maternal and paternal great grandparents were some of the first African American families that settled in the area, coming from Ohio in response to the Homestead Act of 1862. Consequently, Merze grew up with all white classmates and friends in a world that would not always treat Merze, because of her gender as well as her race, with the full respect she deserved. Continue reading Dr. Merze Tate
Bessie Coleman was the first African American female pilot; known as ‘Brave Bessie’ she was determined to achieve her dreams despite the obstacles in her way.
Bessie was born in 1892 in Atlanta, Texas; a time and a place where being black made life very difficult. Black and white children were not allowed to go to the same school so Bessie had to walk four miles every day just to get to the school that was for the black children. Each year her learning would be interrupted in the summer when she had to work in the cotton fields with her family at harvest time. Despite all this, she thrived at school, reading all she could and excelling at maths.
Continue reading Bessie Coleman – Shero of the skies