In the past year, we lost four African American women who made considerable differences in the lives of African Americans and women of all races. These women stood up (well, one sat) for what they believed in and changed the face of America and, maybe the world, forever.
Even though it might be a little late to announce their all but one of their deaths, I thought I should mention them, as we enter Black History Month.
I really hate to admit this, but before September 15, 2005, I had never heard of Constance Baker Motley and, yet, she made such an impact on both African Americans and women, I just wonder why I had never heard of her.
In 1966, President Johnson appointed her United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. She became the first Africian-American appointed to the Federal Court. But, that wasn’t her only first — she was also the first Africian-American woman to serve in the Federal Senate.
On June 11, 1963, a young woman walked into the University of Alabama and registered for class. The news carried her picture and her name, but for me, her name was lost someone in the history books.
Unfortunately it wasn’t until Oct. 13, 2005, that I finally learned her name — Vivian Malone Jones — when the first African American graduate of the University of Alabama passed from this world into the next.
After graduation, MS Jones worked for the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division. She had originally enrolled in the University of Alabama along with James Hood. Unfortunately, Mr. Hood transferred to Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan two months later.
Thirty-three years later, the man who stood at the door of the auditorium and barred MS Jones and Mr. Hood from entering, George Wallace, gave MS Jones the Lurleen B. Wallace Award for Courage and he asked for forgiveness. (FYI, she was the first recipient of the award.)
I wish I had been able to meet her. But, from now on, when it feels as if my classes are piling up and I just can’t take the pressure, I’m going to remember the quiet woman in the pale dress walking up to register and, without crumbling under the pressure, being able to graduate. Anything I do is a cakewalk in comparison.
On October 24, 2005, the woman who would not give up her seat — Rosa Parks — left our inequitable world to join her Heavenly Father. She was a strong woman in turbulent times. Because of her choice, she lost her job and even had to move out of Montgomery, AL. But, she never gave up.
Man, I wish I had known her. Think of the things I could’ve learned. Think of what I could’ve gained. To have known Rosa Parks must’ve given one the feeling that they were standing next to greatness.
There isn’t anything I can write about Mrs. King that you don’t all ready know, but I can tell you this — I’ve met two of her children and spent time with them. For all her civil rights speeches and stumping to get the word out, she must’ve been an excellent mother, because both Martin III and Bernice are two of the nicest people — even if I disagree with Bernice on some issues — I have ever met.
I had a close brush with an opportunity to meet Mrs. King fifteen years ago and it has always been and, since we lost her yesterday, shall remain my biggest regret.