By now, everybody should know of Howard University’s outstanding legacy as one of the most renowned HBCU’s in the country. Howard University is the Mecca. What makes Howard such a cultural center in the black community is the fact that a body of students and alumni have carried its legacy with them to make waves of change throughout history. The feminists of Howard definitely own that power and have made strides in many different fields for black women and Americans as a whole. Here’s a list of our favorite Howard University feminists:
Jamilah Lemieux– Chicago native and Brooklyn raised, she is the Senior-Editor at Ebony Magazine where she serves as a voice for Black women and girls. She is also passionate advocate for LGBTQ rights and sexuality. She is also a powerful twitter activist as she was named to the Fortune’s “Most Influential Women on Twitter” list in 2014. Speaking of lists, she was also named as one of the most influential African-American’s on Root 100’s list. Last year, she earned Planned Parenthood’s Maggie Award for Excellence in Media, an award that honors outstanding journalists who cover women’s health and reproductive right’s issues while empowering women across many communities. As a cultural critic, she’s appeared on several news and radio stations as a guest or interviewee where she consistently speaks her mind (sometimes a little too frankly!) bringing her feminist thoughts and ideas in every space that she enters.
Zora Neale Hurston– Born in Alabama but her home is undeniably in Eatonville, Florida. Growing up in a Black town, she never succumbed to the idea of Black inferiority. She was one of the most prominent figures of the twentieth century, and the Queen of the Harlem Renaissance movement. She is a celebrated novelist, journalist and playwright. Her works are considered jewels of American literature. She published many short stories, articles, novels, folklore collections, and an autobiography. Her most famous works include Tell My Horse (1938), and Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939) and of course, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). She was also an anthropologist and studied African-American folklore and voodou, making several trips across the U.S. and to the Caribbean for fieldwork. Through her works, she dived into the the sexism and racism that have plagued the black woman and shed light on the “mammy stereotype” . Though she only spent two years at the University, Zora has left a permanent mark on Howard and on American history.
Toni Morrison– An Ohio native, Toni Morrison is a world renowned novelist, editor, and retired Princeton University professor. She is a crusader of Black feminism, encouraging black women to reject any notions of racial inferiority or white beauty standards and to love themselves and their identities. Some of her best works are The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Beloved, Love and A Mercy, some of them later becoming films. She is a Nobel Prize winner and a Pulitzer Prize winner in addition to the countless other book prizes and honorary degrees from intuitions around the country. She recently published her latest novel, God Help the Child last year, so pick up a copy!
Dr. Pauli Murray– Durham Diva. She is probably one of the most important black women that you might have never heard of. She graduated Howard University School of Law as valedictorian and was one of the first lawyers to advocate the Equal Protection Clause’s application to gender-based discrimination. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cites Murray as the inspiration for the Reed v. Reed (1971) case decision which established the precedent of the 14th Amendment being applied to such forms of discrimination. Ginsburg even put Murray down as an honorary co-author of her brief in this feminist case! Her list of achievements seem to have no end. In 1940, she was arrested because she defied Jim Crow segregation of buses by refusing to move to the “colored” section, years before Rosa Parks. She was a co-founder of the National Organization of Women and President John F. Kennedy appointed her to his Commission on the Status of Women. She was was the first black woman to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church, later dubbed a Saint by the Church in 2012. All while being an openly queer woman who continuously challenged every preconceived notion you could have about gender and sexuality as a black woman in her time. Favorite feminist material? We think so.
Marjorie Lee Browne– She is a Memphis made brilliant mathematician. She attended Howard University for undergrad and graduated cum laude in 1935. She earned her masters and later her doctorate in Mathematics at the University of Michigan while also teaching there. She was one of the first black women to earn a Doctorate in the field! Later she went on to teach at what is now North Carolina Central University, chairing the math department there until she retired in 1979. She was awarded several fellowships to pursue further study in different topics in mathematics such as combinatorial and differential topology at universities across the world including Cambridge University. She was also a National Science Foundation Faculty Fellow and was the first person to receive the W.W. Rankin Memorial Award for Excellence in Mathematics Education. Through her direction, the NCCU math department was able to receive several grants from companies like IBM (which brought one of the first computers to her college campus!) and Shell and became the first HBCU to be awarded a Nation Science Foundation Institute for secondary teachers in math. Towards the end of her life, she used her money to mentor and support several talented but impoverished girls to obtain their Ph.D.’s in the field.