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:

Speeches By Black Female Orators You Should Know – Part 1

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

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 at the March on Washington (1963)

Josephine Baker

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.

 

The Introduction of The Equal Rights Amendment by Shirley Chisholm

Shirley_Chisholm

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!