Greenhill Upper School students and faculty share underrepresented Black historic figures in honor of Black History Month.
Dr. Amy Bresie, History Department chair and Upper School History teacher
I am surprised that the work of Pauli Murray is not more widely known. After the all-white University of North Carolina refused to admit her to its law school, Murray worked with the NAACP to fight segregation. While she failed to change North Carolina’s laws, she received her law degree from Howard University and became a prominent Civil Rights lawyer. She campaigned to end segregation on public transportation, befriended Eleanor Roosevelt, helped to found the Congress of Racial Equality, served on a committee for racial justice under the Kennedy administration, published poetry, co-founded the National Organization of Women, and later became one of the first female Episcopalian priests. She transcended every barrier put in front of her.
Chrystal Duckert, Upper School English teacher
James Baldwin was an accomplished African American writer whose work was often overlooked by critics due to the emphasis on the traditional literary canon. His writing style and personal aesthetic is critical to understanding the African American experience in America.
Dr. Karin Thomas, Upper School English teacher
Gwendolyn Brooks: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/gwendolyn-brooks Brooks was the first black woman to win the Pulizer prize for A Street in Bronzeville , which she began writing when she was seventeen. I had teacher in college who took a group of us students to meet her in Hartford. I remember about five of us piled into his car to attend her poetry reading. I had never been to a poetry reading, and I wasn’t expecting much. Brooks was warm and funny and kind, and hearing her read her work moved me. Nowadays, re-reading her work, appreciate her craftsmanship, She is one of the finest sonnet writers in American poetry. But what I remember is that she wrote about people who reminded me of my folks.
Maya LaRosliere, junior
Personally, I think the most underrepresented historic black figure is every black figure that is not Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, or Harriet Tubman. Throughout our education in grade school when we talk about black figures year after year they are the same ones. Unless you seek out to learn about more influential black people chances are you will not be exposed to the impact they had on our country. Even the figures I mentioned are not taught into complete depth.
Karis Thomas, junior
Black people are underrepresented period. It’s sad that many figures go unrecognized and the only two black figures we talk about are MLK and Rosa Parks. In my opinion Angels Davis (aside from being my hero) is one of the most underrepresented black figures not only civil rights but in American history. Her achievements as a scholar and writer along with her role in the Black Panther Party and advocating for prison reform/rights often goes unnoticed and should be recognized.
Ananias Hayes, sophomore
If I had to choose some African Americans that are underrepresented during Black History Month, one would have to be Claudette Colvin. She was a African American woman that refused to give up her seat to a white passenger. Even though this should not undermine the act of Rosa Parks, Colvin did this before Parks but is undermined because was a teen mother at the time. Another would be Martin Delay who was an abolitionist, newspaper editor, and one of the 1st successful Black physicians. I just think its remarkable because not only did he graduate from Harvard Medical School, he was also a officer in the US Army. I love Delany because I love not only broke the color barrier at Harvard but also in the field of medicine!
Kassidy Woods, junior
In my opinion, one the most underrated historical black figures is Shirley Chisholm. Shirley Chisholm was born Shirley St. Hill on November 30, 1924, in a predominantly black neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Later in life, she became the first African-American congresswoman in 1968. She represented New York State in the U.S. House of Representatives for seven terms. Chisholm went on to make history yet again, becoming the first major-party African-American candidate to make a bid for the U.S. presidency when she ran for the Democratic nomination in 1972. She served as director of the Hamilton-Madison Child Care Center from 1953-59, and as an educational consultant for New York City’s Bureau of Child Welfare from 1959-64. She lived to be 80 years old, dying January 1, 2005. Not only did Shirley Chisholm represent the African American community, but also being a woman as well. We all know The Constitution they wrote was designed to protect the rights of whites, more so the white male citizens. As there were no black Founding Fathers, there were also no founding mothers. Not only did she face the triumphs of her black skin, but also being a woman too. One of my favorite quotes by her is, “Tremendous amounts of talent are lost to our society just because that talent wears a skirt.” Let that sink in
Photo by Zeenya Meherally
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