Speeches By Black Female Orators You Should Know – Part 2

 

If you haven’t seen my last post, for Women’s History Month,  I began a curation of a few of the most powerful and influential speeches made by black women. That post featured a Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman”, Josephine Baker’s words from The March on Washington, and Shirley Chisolm’s introduction of The Equal Rights Amendment. This month, I wanted to touch on some influential speeches that were made a bit more recently.

Viola Davis’s 2015 Emmy Acceptance Speech

Viola Davis has quickly become a household name, and for good reason. Not only has Viola solidified herself as an amazing actress, she’s also unafraid to speak the truths of her reality in the Hollywood (as seen in her 2011 Women in Hollywood speech). Her speech in 2015 at the Emmy’s was monumental. Viola became the first African American to receive an Emmy for best actress in drama, and she shared her win with all women of color in the industry, with a poignant and beautiful thank you.

The speech was as follows:

 

“In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me, over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.’

That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.

You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there. So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people that are Ben Sherwood, Paul Lee, Peter Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes, people who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black.

And to the Taraji P. Hensons, the Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Meagan Goods, to Gabrielle Union: Thank you for taking us over that line. Thank you to the Television Academy. Thank you.”

It’s easy to see why this speech was so important. Viola was able to shed light on a situation much larger than herself, and was adamantly thankful to those who played (and continue to play) a part in the creation of opportunity for black women and other women of color in Hollywood.

 

Michelle Obama’s Remarks at Memorial Service for Dr. Maya Angelou

 

Speeches from memorial services are most definitely not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about important speeches. But Michelle Obama’s words for the late Dr. Maya Angelou’s service went beyond a simple eulogy. She spoke of the power that Dr. Angelou possessed, and the impact that Angelou had on the lives of black women, and all women everywhere.  Michelle Obama spoke not only as the First Lady of the United States but also as every woman. She spoke to how Dr. Angelou made her feel, and was able to voice her thanks, praise, and reverence for the amazing Dr. Maya Angelou.

 

“But while I don’t remember her exact words I do remember exactly how she made me feel. She made me feel like I owned the place, too. She made me feel like I had been born on that stage right next to her. And I remember thinking to myself, “Maya Angelou knows who I am! And she is rooting for me! So now, I’m good. I can do this. I can do this.”

You can watch the full speech here:

Black Women and the Advancement of Higher Education

Time and time again, it has been proven that educated citizens can tremendously impact society in a positive way, and there has been a push for governments, both on state and national levels, to pledge their commitment to ensuring educational opportunity for all.

Black female student

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Predominantly, the opportunity for education needs to be present for those whom that opportunity has been elusive throughout history. Minorities, particularly women of color, haven’t been afforded the same opportunities for higher education, despite a rich history of their groundbreaking contributions to the cause of education in America.

Here are just a few women of color who have kicked in the schoolhouse door.

Dr. Johnetta Cole

When Dr. Cole was named president of Spelman College in 1987, she became the first black female President of the small liberal arts women’s college, also one of the oldest historically black colleges (HBC) for women in America. Under her leadership, the SAT scores of incoming freshman consistently ranked higher than any other HBC in the nation, earning the college the title as one of the top regional liberal arts colleges in the South by U.S. News and World Report magazine.

Dr. Martha Euphemia Lofton Haynes

After becoming the first black woman to earn her Ph.D. in Mathematics from The Catholic University in Washington, D.C. in 1943, Dr. Haynes then went on to establish the first mathematics department at Miner Teachers College, known today as the District of Columbia Teachers College, and serve as Chair of the Division of Mathematics and Education. In 1966, she played an instrumental role in integrating the DC public school system as the first woman to chair the District of Columbia School Board.

President Shirley Jackson, Ph.D.

Adding to the list of notable women of color who’ve made significant strides for the cause of education, Dr. Jackson was the first black female to receive a doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1973. Twenty-two years later, she was named the first black person and first woman to serve as chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and was also the first black woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering. To top off her list of impressive firsts, Dr. Jackson became the first black female to lead a major technological institute when in 1999 she was named the President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a position she holds to this day.