In honor of Women’s History Month, I wanted to share what are, in my opinion, a few of the most powerful and poignant speeches by Black women in history.
These are speeches that have quite literally changed history, and were delivered by women who were unafraid to voice their opinions and passion in spaces that were/are not always welcoming and appreciative of their words.
There will be some very old, and some very new speeches listed, but each one deserves recognition and serves as an important reminder of the power of words.
(Click the links to read the full speeches)
“Ain’t I A Woman?”– Sojourner Truth (1851)
Sojourner Truth delivered this speech on May 29th, 1851 to the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. While there are a few different versions of the speech floating around, every single version portrays the same powerful message: A demand for equality of women of all races. It was a succinct and ground breaking speech, that acted as a retort to the idea of women being weak and intellectually inferior to men.
Josephine Baker was the only woman that spoke at the March on Washington. Ms. Baker was famed for being a singer and entertainer of unrivaled talent, who dominated the entertainment industry in the 1920s. She was the first African american woman to star in a movie, and the first to integrate a concert hall in the US. But, by 1963, Josephine was known for living as an expatriate in France. She’d always been an activist, and delivered her speech to the masses in her uniform from the french resistance.
Josephine spoke of the reasons behind her self-imposed exile to France. She told her story of being invited into palaces and homes of presidents of other countries, but being denied service and humanity in the United States. Ms. Baker stressed to the United States as a whole that the treatment of blacks was unreasonable and inhumane, and that change was of the utmost importance.
Shirley Chisholm was a force to be reckoned with, and she dedicated her career to making positive changes for women. Ms. Chisholm was the first black woman to be elected to Congress, and she made sure to use her position of power bring the Equal Rights Amendment back to the forefront of people’s minds.
Shirley Chisholm’s speech addressed the harsh reality of the fact that she felt more discrimination for being a woman than for being black (as outward racial discrimination was becoming less acceptable). She expressed that there was an unspoken, but very real assumption that women were less capable and not as intelligent as men. Her speech called for a recognition and reconciliation of the discriminatory practices against women; and helped bring attention to the issues that many attempted to overlook.
Be sure to check back next month for even more beautiful, powerful speeches you need to be aware of!