Picture Freedom: Freedom Hero Biographies

 

The Picture Freedom Art Contest is sponsored by Toyota and was developed in 2015 by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center to help students reflect on the legacies of freedom fighters and draw connections from the Underground Railroad to the Civil Rights Movement to the modern day fight against slavery.

These biographies of Freedom Heroes can be used as inspiration for your art but you are not limited to these individuals nor are you required to mention or portray them.

Yuri Kochiyama (1921-2014)

Born in San Pedro, California in 1921, Yuri Kochiyama was one of three children in a family of first-generation Japanese immigrants. Soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, Kochiyama’s father was detained by FBI agents at Terminal Penitentiary in Los Angeles County, California. Kochiyama and the rest of her family were forcibly relocated to Japanese internment camps in Santa Anita, California and Jerome, Arkansas. Faced with the harsh discrimination of her people, Kochiyama noted the many parallels between the treatment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast and the treatment of African Americans throughout the southern United States.

After World War II, Kochiyama and her husband moved to Harlem, New York. In October of 1963, Kochiyama met Malcolm X outside of a Brooklyn courthouse. After the meeting, she became involved with militant civil rights groups, including the Organization of Afro-American Unity and the Republic of New Africa. Kochiyama protested the unfair imprisonment of African Americans, championed Puerto Rican independence, and promoted racial equality.

“Don’t become too narrow. Live fully. Meet all kinds of people. You’ll learn something from everyone. Follow what you feel in your heart.” Yuri Kochiyama

 

James Baldwin (1924-1987)

The grandson of a slave, James Baldwin was an African American author born in Harlem, New York in 1924. He was one of nine children under the care of a very pious and strict stepfather. Baldwin became a preacher in his teen years, following his stepfather’s example. Baldwin credits his time spent as a preacher as being particularly transformative as he began to write pieces on African American life. Many critics also note very strong biblical influences in Baldwin’s writing.

At the age of 24, Baldwin moved to Paris, France. According to the author, it was necessary to distance himself from American life in order to properly write about the country. Baldwin finished his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, in 1953. The semi-autobiographical novel analyzed the role of the Christian Church in African American life and subtly discussed racism in the United States.

After spending 10 years traveling throughout Europe, Baldwin returned to the United States and joined civil rights organizations such as Congress of Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Through his literary work and lecture tours with CORE and SNCC, Baldwin played a crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement and worked to promote gay rights and inclusive freedom.

“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” James Baldwin

“People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned.” James Baldwin

 

Angela Davis (1944-Present)

Angela Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1944. From an early age, she was exposed to Communist ideals through her parents’ membership in the Communist Party. After studying in Germany and France for high school, Davis returned to the United States to attend college. During her college years at Brandeis University, Davis took an active role in both the Communist and Black Panther Parties. Davis became a highly visible social justice activist by publicly voicing her opposition to the Vietnam War, racism, sexism, imperialism, and the prison industrial complex, and her support of gay rights and other social justice movements.  Advocating for the Communist and Black Panther Parties, secured her a spot on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List in 1971. Davis was soon after arrested on false charges of kidnap and murder which led to one of the famous trials in modern history.  Organized by her supporters, the national Free Angela Davis Campaign resulted in her 1972 acquittal.

Today, Davis is a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz. She works to reform the US penal system, promotes multicultural cooperation and frequently lectures on civil rights and feminism.

“Racism is a much more clandestine, much more hidden kind of phenomenon, but at the same time it’s perhaps far more terrible than it’s ever been” Angela Davis

“Racism, in the first place, is a weapon used by the wealthy to increase the profits they bring in by paying Black workers less for their work” Angela Davis

 

Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965)

Lorraine Hansberry was born in 1930 into a family that greatly contributed to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and National Urban League. In 1938, the Hansberry family moved into an all-white neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois. They were threatened by their neighbors to move out, but the family refused to leave their home until they received a court order. The case was eventually heard by the Supreme Court in Hansberry v. Lee. The case established restrictive covenants on use of property, illegal, marking an important step towards equal housing rights.

Later in life, Hansberry enrolled at University of Wisconsin in Madison. After two years, Hansberry left the University of Wisconsin for New York City. There, she attended the New School for Social Research and worked as a writer and associate editor of the black reform newspaper, Freedom. Hansberry’s famed play, A Raisin In the Sun, debuted in 1959 and was the first play produced on Broadway by a black woman. The writer was also the first African American playwright and the youngest American to receive the New York Critic’s Circle Award for her work.

“Seems like God don’t see fit to give the black man nothing but dreams, but he did give us children to make them dreams seem worthwhile.” Lorraine Hansberry

 

Stokely Carmichael (1941-1998)

Stokely Carmichael was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad in 1941. He immigrated to New York City when he was eleven years old. During his teenage years, Carmichael was inspired by the media surrounding the courageous individuals who participated in civil rights sit-ins and protests that took place around the country, Carmichael decided to join the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and participated in various sit-ins in Virginia and South Carolina. Shortly after, he received a scholarship to attend Howard University in Washington D.C. During his time in college, Carmichael protested the segregation of highway travel by participating in Freedom Rides in Maryland and the throughout the south.

After graduating college in 1964, Carmichael joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during Freedom Summer, a national event directed at increasing black voter registration in Mississippi. Carmichael was able to help increase the number of black voters from 30 to 2,600 and was subsequently named the chairman of SNCC in 1966. With the publishing of his 1968 book, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation, Carmichael coined the term “black power”, a phrase soon adopted by a proud and radical generation of African Americans who were not opposed to using violence as a means to justice. After trips to Guinea, Cuba and North Vietnam, Carmichael became the Prime Minister of the Black Panther Party, touring the United States promoting black solidarity and pride.

Due to his increasingly Pan-Africanist beliefs, Carmichael left the Black Panther Party in 1969 and moved to Guinea to promote African solidarity on the continent and throughout the Diaspora. He ultimately changed his name to Kwame Ture in honor of his two role models Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, and Sekou Toure, the first president of Guinea.

“Our grandfathers had to run, run, run. My generation’s out of breath. We ain’t running no more.” Stokely Carmichael

“We were aware of the fact that death runs hand in hand with struggle.” Stokely Carmichael

 

Cesar Chavez (1927-1993)

Cesar Chavez was born in 1927 near Yuma, Arizona, where his family worked as farmers on their own farmland. During the Great Depression, they became migrant farm workers and Chavez witnessed firsthand the discrimination and injustice his family experienced on the various farms they worked. He was immediately determined to improve the quality of life for migrant farmers across the country. In 1962, Chavez left his career and founded the National Farm Workers’ Association in Delano, California. Chavez eagerly began recruiting members for his union from the surrounding farms, but many people were reluctant for fear of losing their jobs.

Chavez advocated for collective bargaining rights between growers and farmers in addition to union contracts securing farmers’ human rights, like restrooms and clean drinking water.

In conjunction with the Agricultural Workers’ Organizing Committee, on September 8, 1965, Chavez organized the Delano Grape Strike protesting the unfair practices of table grape growers. The strike lasted five years and involved more than 2,000 farm workers. Though boycotts and demonstrations, the Delano Grape Strike led to some of the first contracts between land owners and migrant farm workers. The Delano Grape Strike gained so much national support that it pressured California Governor Jerry Brown to pass the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, giving farm workers the right to organize, negotiate, and choose a union representative.

“Si se puede! (Yes, it can be done!)” Cesar Chavez

“The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people” Cesar Chavez

“Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures”  Cesar Chavez

 

Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005)

Shirley Chisholm grew up in Brooklyn, New York, but she spent much of her life with her grandmother in Barbados. Chisholm graduated from Brooklyn College in 1946 and obtained her Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Columbia University. She served as the director of the Hamilton-Madison Child Care Center from 1953-1959 and went on to be an educational consultant for the New York City Bureau of Welfare until 1964.

In 1968, Chisholm became the first African American woman to serve in Congress, representing New York State. She became one of the four founding members of the National Women's Political Caucus in 1969. In 1972, Chisholm was also the first major-party African American candidate for President of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party nomination. She did not secure the nomination, but during her time as a Congresswoman, Chisholm passionately promoted minority education and employment opportunities and submitted over 50 pieces of legislation.

After 14 years in Congress, Chisholm retired from politics despite a nomination to become the US Ambassador to Jamaica. Chisholm taught at Mount Holyoke College and frequently gave lectures around the country. Chisholm even wrote two autobiographical works,Unbought and Unbossed (1970) and The Good Fight (1973).

“Tremendous amounts of talent are lost to our society just because that talent wears a skirt.” Shirley Chisholm

“I don’t measure America by its achievement, but by its potential” Shirley Chisholm

 

Dennis Banks (1937-Present)

Dennis Banks was born on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in Northern Minnesota in 1932. For most of his early life, Banks attended Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) boarding schools. Sponsored by the Federal Government, the boarding school were meant to educate Native American children according to American standards and help them to assimilate into American culture. During this time, Banks and the other children suffered physical abuse and were forced to abandon all aspects of their Native American culture. Banks rarely saw his family, and he was severely punished for runaway attempts.

In 1968, Banks co-founded the American Indian Movement (AIM), an organization dedicated to the preservation of traditional Native American culture and the protection of treaty rights for all Indians, including those pertaining to hunting, fishing and trapping. An AIM demonstration in South Dakota led to Banks’ arrest, however, he fled and sought amnesty in California and New York. From 1976 to 1983, Banks earned an Associates of Arts from the University of California, Davis and became the first Native American Chancellor at Deganawidah Quetzalcoatl University. In 1985, Banks served 18 months in prison for his actions in the AIM demonstration. He then became a drug and alcohol counselor on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

“And Americans realized that native people are still here, that they have a moral standing, a legal standing.” Dennis Banks

“Since the beginning, Native Peoples lived a life of being in harmony with all that surrounds us.” Dennis Banks

 

Rosa Parks (1913-2005)

Rosa Parks was born in Tuskegee, Alabama on February 4, 1913. She grew up on a small farm with her grandparents, mother, and brother just outside of Montgomery, Alabama. Growing up in the South, Parks witnessed firsthand the consequences of segregation. She had to walk to an underfunded black school that was the target of multiple arson attacks while she watched white children ride the school bus to their new, over funded school.

After her marriage in 1932, Parks started to become involved in formal civil rights activities. She joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and was soon elected as the organization’s secretary. In this role, Parks investigated civil rights violations and launched national campaigns for justice. Working closely with the NAACP taught Parks about the strategy of using legal test cases to change the laws.

On December 1, 1955 when Parks refused to give up her seat on a public bus in Montgomery, she was not only tired after a long day at work but also tired of the discrimination and inequality she experienced on a daily basis. Parks refusal to give her seat to a white person not only led to her arrest but also became a legal test case that catalyzed the Civil Rights Movement. Using Parks’ actions, the NAACP was able to mobilize Montgomery’s African American citizens to boycott segregated public transit.  The boycotts ultimately led to the integration of the public transit system.

Later in life, Parks received numerous awards and continued her civil rights work. She established scholarship foundations and educational resources for students learning about civil rights history.

“I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people.” Rosa Parks

 

Bayard Rustin (1912-1987)

Bayard Rustin was born on March 17, 1912 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He was raised by his Quaker grandparents and his mother, an immigrant from the West Indies. Rustin attended Wilberforce University in Ohio and Cheyney State Teachers College (now Cheney University of Pennsylvania) in Pennsylvania, both historically black schools. At Cheyney State Teachers College, Rustin completed an activist training program that fueled his interests in social justice movements. Rustin combined the pacifism of the Quaker religion, the non-violent resistance taught by Mahatma Gandhi, and the socialism discussed by his mentor, African-American labor leader A. Philip Randolph in his personal philosophy and civil rights work.

After meeting Martin Luther King Jr., Rustin helped organize the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott in 1956 and the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. He even took his efforts internationally by coordinating a march in Aldermaston, England, in which 10,000 attendees demonstrated against nuclear weapons in the late 1950s. Rustin received numerous awards and honorary degrees throughout his career. Later in life, he continued to speak about the importance of economic equality and gay rights.

“When an individual is protesting society's refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.” Bayard Rustin

 

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

Born as Michael King Jr. on January 15 in Atlanta, Georgia, Martin Luther King Jr. grew up in a very religious and loving environment. His father had changed his name in 1929 from Michael King Sr. to Martin Luther King Sr. in honor of the German Protestant religious leader Martin Luther after becoming a successful minister. As a young adult and emerging religious leader, Michael Jr. would follow his father's lead and adopt the name himself to become Martin Luther King Jr.

King entered Morehouse College in Atlanta at age 15, in 1944 and graduated four years later with a sociology degree. Next, he attended the liberal Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania to become an ordained minister. After moving to Montgomery, Alabama and working in the church there, King was chosen by the NAACP to lead what would become the Montgomery boycott in 1956. His fresh and skillful rhetoric put a new energy into the civil rights struggle in Alabama and catapulted him to national fame. He soon after co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a coalition of religious leaders fighting for civil rights, and took the lead on numerous civil rights protests, sit-ins and marches with his characteristic strategy of non-violent direct action all across the nation.

King is best known for his inspiring speeches and personal sacrifices for civil rights throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Years after his death, he is the most widely known African-American leader of his era. His life and work have been honored with a national holiday, schools and public buildings named after him, and a memorial on Independence Mall in Washington, D.C.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Martin Luther King Jr.

 

John and Jean Rankin

This Presbyterian minister was one of the earliest voices in the country against slavery. Rankin's "Letters on Slavery" - written to his brother in Virginia - greatly influenced William Lloyd Garrison and many other abolitionists. Reverend Rankin severed ties with several religious congregations due to his vehement antislavery stand. He, his wife Jean, and their thirteen children all helped fight slavery. Reverend Rankin spoke across the country and began local anti-slavery organizations throughout the region. Mrs. Rankin sewed clothes and cooked for runaways visiting their "Liberty Hill" home overlooking the Ohio River and the slaveholding land of Kentucky. Their sons often led runaways on horseback to other Underground Railroad members in Red Oak, Sardinia and Decatur, Ohio. In all, the Rankins are reported to have sheltered more than 2,000 runaways.

 

Robert Smalls (1839-1915)

Years of working on ships around Charleston, South Carolina, paid off for Robert Smalls and twelve other enslaved people. On May 13, 1862, Smalls, his wife and two children, and twelve other slaves took over the Planter, a steamboat built to haul cotton. Dressed as the captain, Smalls used the signals he knew would allow passage by Fort Sumter. He then steered the ship towards the Union Navy, which was currently blockading the port. Hoisting the white flag of surrender, Smalls offered the boat to the Union forces. Not only had he won freedom for himself, his family and twelve others, but Smalls had also given the Union a ship, weapons and important information about the Confederates' defenses. President Lincoln authorized a bill giving Smalls $1500 for his actions. He was named captain of the Planter and took part in seventeen engagements (events during the Civil War) on behalf of the Union. When the war was over, Smalls lectured throughout New York. He bought the Beaufort, South Carolina, home where he and his mother had been enslaved; he lived there for the rest of his life. Smalls served terms in the South Carolina Senate and House of Representatives before being elected to the U.S. Congress for five years.

 

Frederick Douglas

Born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey in February 1818, Douglass started his life in Talbot County, Maryland, under master Aaron Anthony. The identity of his white father remained unknown, and Douglass never saw his mother, Harriet Bailey, after the age of seven. Anthony died when Douglass was twelve, and he was sent to work for Thomas Auld, the brother-in-law of his new owner (McKivigan 14). In Baltimore, Auld's wife treated him like a son and illegally taught him to read. Douglass later reflected, "Going to live at Baltimore laid the foundation, and opened the gateway, to all my subsequent prosperity" ("People").After seven years with Auld, Douglass was rented in January 1834 to Edward Covey, a poor farmer known as an expert "slave breaker" (Thomas). The unbearable year under Covey left Douglass resolved to gain his freedom. Despite a kinder master, Douglass plotted and failed to escape in spring 1836. Douglass worked again for Thomas Auld, this time as a ship caulker in Baltimore. There, he fell in love with Anna Murray, a free black woman. On September 3, 1838, Douglass fled for New York City under the alias of a free black sailor. Taking the new name Frederick Douglass, he married Murray and settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Douglass began attending abolitionist meetings and subscribed to William Lloyd Garrison's weekly journal, The Liberator. After giving his first speech for the Anti-Slavery Society in 1841, Douglass lectured full time for the abolitionist group. To maintain credibility, Douglass published the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave in May 1845. After a speaking tour of the British Isles, Douglass moved to Rochester, New York, in 1847 to publish a weekly paper, The North Star, with the motto, "Right is of no sex - Truth is of no color - God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren" (Thomas). As the Civil War began, Douglass was one of the most famous black men in the world, known internationally for his anti-slavery and women's suffrage orations (Blight 18). Through editorials and speeches Douglass insisted that the Civil War's primary focus be eliminating slavery and allowing blacks to personally fight for their freedom. Following the Emancipation Proclamation and interview with Lincoln, Douglass wrote the editorial "Men of Color, To Arms!" urging black men to join the Union Army (Breiseth 92). Douglass continued to support Lincoln by providing advice at the end of the war and attending his 1865 inauguration ceremony (Breiseth 96).After the Civil War, Douglass continued to advocate for black rights saying, "Slavery is not abolished until the black man has the ballot." Following the Fifteenth Amendment ratification on March 30, 1870, Douglass held several political appointments, including U.S. ambassador to Haiti, U.S. Marshal, and Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia (Thomas). He continued lecturing in the U.S. and abroad and in 1882 published his third autobiography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. Following a speech at the February 20, 1895, National Council of Women meeting in Washington, D.C., Douglass died in his home at age 77 of a heart attack.

 

William Still (1821-1902)

William Still was born in Burlington County, New Jersey. His father, Levin Steel, had been enslaved, purchased his own freedom, and changed his name to Still to protect his wife, Sidney. Mrs. Still had tried to escape once before she succeeded, but could only bring two of her children with her. William Still had little formal education, but studied whenever he could. In 1844, William moved to Philadelphia. In 1847, he found a job as a clerk and janitor for the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery. He soon began aiding fugitive slaves, often sheltering them until they could find their way farther north. One fugitive was his older brother, Peter, who had been left behind when his mother escaped forty years earlier. These experiences led William to save careful records about the people he helped. Meanwhile, Still purchased real estate, opened a store selling stoves, and later founded a successful coal business. Before the Civil War, Still had destroyed many of his records about aiding fugitives, because he feared they would be used to prosecute people. After the war, his children persuaded him to write the story of his exploits and the people he helped. Still's book, The Underground Railroad (1872), is one of the most important historical records we have. Although Still recognized the many contributions of white abolitionists, he portrayed the fugitives as courageous individuals who struggled for their own freedom. Still proudly exhibited his book at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876.

Harriet Tubman (1822 - 1913)

as a young child on a plantation in Eastern Maryland, Tubman tried to protect another slave and suffered a head injury that led to sudden blackouts throughout her life. When she escaped slavery on the Underground Railroad, Tubman traveled through the woods at night, found shelter and aid from free Blacks and Quakers, and eventually reached freedom in Philadelphia to align with William Still and the Vigilance Committee. After hearing that her niece and children would soon be sold, Tubman arranged to meet them in Baltimore and usher them North to freedom. It was the first of around thirteen trips that Tubman guided approximately 50 to 70 people to freedom. Tubman spoke often before anti-slavery gatherings detailing her experiences. She was never captured, and went on to serve as a spy, scout and nurse for the Union Army. When the government refused to give her a pension for her wartime service, Tubman sold vegetables and fruit door-to-door and lived on the proceeds from her biography.

 

John Parker (1827-1900)

Born enslaved in Virginia, Parker was sold away from his mother at age eight and forced to walk in a line of chained slaves from Virginia to Alabama. After several unsuccessful attempts, he finally bought his freedom with the money he earned doing extra work as a skilled craftsman. Parker moved to Cincinnati and then to Ripley, where he became one of the most daring slave rescuers of the period. Not content to wait for runaways to make their way to the Ohio side of the river, Parker actually "invaded" Kentucky farms at night and brought over to Ripley hundreds of slaves. He kept records of those he had guided towards freedom, but he destroyed the notes in 1850 after realizing how the Fugitive Slave Law threatened his home, his business and his family's future.

 

Henry “Box” Brown

Brown, enslaved in Richmond, Virginia, convinced Samuel A. Smith to nail a box shut around him, wrap five hickory hoops around the box, and ship it to a member of the Vigilance Committee in Philadelphia. The box was 2 feet 8 inches wide, 2 feet deep and 3 feet long. At 5 feet 10 inches and more than 200 pounds, Brown had very little space for movement. Even though the box was marked "This side up with care," he spent some of the time upside down. He could not shift his position because that might attract attention. Brown took only a little water to drink, or to splash on his face if he got too warm, and some biscuits. There were tiny holes within the box so he could breathe. In all, the trip took 27 long hours. When the box finally arrived in the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery office, four people locked the door behind them, knocked on the box, and opened it up. Henry stood up and reached out to shake their hands. He was a free man! Henry 'Box' Brown went on to speak all over the U.S. and Europe about his escape. Samuel A. Smith tried to help another slave escape in the same way, but Smith was caught and sent to prison in Richmond for more than seven years.

 

Margaret Garner

Enslaved with her four children on the Archibald Gaines farm in Boone County, Kentucky, Margaret and her husband, who was enslaved on a nearby farm, broke away one January night in 1856. Crossing the frozen Ohio River on foot, Margaret and her children went on to the home of a black man. But they were seen, and soon the owners and officers surrounded the house. A battle began. Determined not to surrender her children to the horrors of slavery, Margaret saw that the owners would win. She took a knife and cut the throat of her young daughter and tried to do the same with her other children, but was stopped. The runaways were arrested and jailed. After a long trial that lasted several weeks, the U.S. Commissioner ruled that the runaways must be returned to slavery. Margaret was sold South. On the way, by ship, an accident occurred aboard and one of Margaret's children drowned. Margaret survived the event and lived in slavery for another two years, when she died of a horrible fever in 1858.

 

Anna Murray Douglass

In 1813 Anna Murray was born free along with her four younger siblings, however, her seven older brothers and sisters were all born into slavery. A month before her birth, her parents had been manumitted (the act of a slave owner freeing his slaves). At the age of 17 Anna Murray established herself as a laundress and housekeeper. These professions led her to meet her future husband Frederick Douglass, whom she helped escape slavery in 1838. In their first ten years of marriage the Douglass’s had five children. Anna worked as a laundress and made shoes to support the family while Frederick worked sporadically giving speeches on abolitionism. She also taught her children how to work the Printing Press (like the one you see here) to support her husband’s abolitionist newspaper The North Star. She was an active member of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society, and also was a large participant in the Underground Railroad.

 

Susan B. Anthony

Born February 15, 1820 Susan was brought up in a Quaker family with long activism traditions. After moving to Rochester, New York in 1845 the Anthony family became active in the Anti-slavery movement. Anthony became an agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society, that arranged meetings, made speeches, put up posters, and distributed leaflets. She also helped organize the Women’s National Loyal League that fought for the end of slavery. In 1866 Anthony, along with her friend and coworker, Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the American Equal Rights Association. The Association's goal was to bring equal voting rights for women in the United States. In 1892 she became president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In 1900 Anthony retired from the NAWSA.

 

 Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a social activist, abolitionist, and a prominent figure in the Women’s Rights Movement in the United States. Stanton’s father was a Lawyer as well as a Judge which contributed to her interest in social activism and reform movements. In 1840 she married Henry Stanton, a journalist and anti-slavery orator. Soon after their marriage the couple traveled to London, where Henry was a delegate to the World Anti-Slavery Convention. Elizabeth along with all female delegates at the convention were denied their seats because of their sex. Because of their treatment at the World Anti-Slavery Convention Staton, along with other prominent female figures, discussed the need for a women’s rights convention. In 1848 Stanton, along with Lucretia Mott, and Martha Coffin Wright organized the Seca Falls Convention with over 300 people in attendance to discuss Women’s Rights. Stanton wrote the Declaration of Sentiments, that was modeled after the United States Declaration of Independence, that demanded that the rights of women and the need of respect and acknowledgement from society. Stanton also sat as the President for the National American Woman's Suffrage Association for twenty-one years.

 

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth was born into slavery as Isabella Baumfree in New York 1797. She escaped slavery with her daughter in 1826. Sojourner ended up settling in New York City and stayed there until 1843 the same year she officially changed her name. She traveled around the Midwest speaking on Abolitionism, Women’s rights and Suffrage, along with other human rights. In 1851 Truth attended the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. At this convention she gave her famous speech “Ain't I a Woman?” which we will listen to shortly. Sojourner Truth died in her home in 1883. Over 1,000 people were said to attend her funeral.

 

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet was born in 1811 to a family of Puritans with high moral standards. Her father was a  Puritan reverend and the family was very involved in the Underground Railroad. Of the thirteen children all her brothers became ministers, her sister Catherine pioneered education for women, and her youngest sister Isabella was one of the founders of the National Woman's Suffrage Association. When she was twenty-one Harriet moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to live with her father who was teaching at Lane Theological Seminary. She also taught until 1834 when she married Calvin Stowe who also taught at Lane. Her experiences of the slave trade on the Ohio River encouraged her to write her book Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852 on Anti-Slavery. The book brought about the atrocities of slavery by following the main character Uncle Tom through his life as a slave. It became the best selling book of the nineteenth century and helped encourage the anti-slavery movement. Her house in Cincinnati still stands today and is an Ohio Historical Society site.

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