Monthly Archives: February 2021

February 28, 2021 – Catherine Flowers, activist

As we move into Women’s History Month, I am intrigued by women that are now making a difference in the world. Today’s awesome woman:

Catherine Coleman Flowers

Catherine Coleman Flowers is a MacArthur fellow who has come to the attention of Washington and will be on the Task Force on Climate Change.   She is the founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE)  and as a author of Waste: One Women’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret. where she works to address the problem of unequal water sanitation in rural communities in the US.  In 2019, she testified to Congress about the failure of Alabama to provide affordable and effective septic systems to residents and called on policy makers to make meaningful investments at local, state and federal levels.  The resource she created with Columbia Law School is appropriately called, “Flushed and Forgotten“. 

Flowers’ work builds partnerships with elected officials, regional non-profits and federal law makers including the US Congress, EPA and CDC. She has educated people on how unsafe water and raw sewage are not just problematic because they cause disease (we have collectively as humans known this for thousands of years) but disease and inadequate resources reinforce generational poverty. 

She comes from a family of activists and by the age of 16, in the early 70s she became a Robert Kennedy Fellow and worked to rid her high school of the principal and superintendent that were complicit if not directly involved in sexual trafficking of black girls and one that was killed. 

After graduating from college, she was a teacher in both Detroit and Washington D.C. and saw the need for civil rights first hand. Then she had a mind changing experience when she saw the movie “Inconvenient Truth”  and found herself moving back to Alabama in 2000 to begin community work in her hometown on infrastructure and nonexistent and improper wastewater management systems. 

When responding to her recent appointment to Biden’s Climate Task Force of which there are only 8 people and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is the chair, she told Sienna Zuco;

“I stand on a lot of shoulders. And I’d probably take up this entire interview just naming people who have been instrumental in influencing me from my childhood even through now,. I think what I developed from my parents was a sense of what is morally right and a sense of giving a voice to people that do not have the access, or the privilege themselves,”

Born Country but Raised an Activist: Catherine Coleman Flowers of the Biden Climate Task Force Uncovers “America’s Dirty Secret” in “Bloody Lowndes,” Alabama


February 25, 2021 – Dorothy B Porter, librarian

Image 1970 Library of Congress ds 10194 //

Dorothy Louise Burnett, (1905-1995) born in Warrenton, Virginia, the first of four children of Dr. and Mrs. Hayes J. Burnett. They encouraged their children to become educated and to serve. Her father was a physician, and her mother was a tennis pro who became a homemaker.

Porter received a B.A. in 1928 from Howard University. In 1932 she received an M.S. in library science from Columbia University becoming the first African American to graduate from Columbia’s library school. She was offered a position at Moorland-Spingarn Center at Howard University where she spent 43 years devoting herself to develop a modern research library.

In 1929, she married James A Porter an artist and historian. Both worked at Howard University, he in art and she as a librarian. According to Julie Botnick, Yale Spring 2014, “Their marriage was a happy one, the coming together of two dynamic, creative, charismatic Howard graduates who were early pioneers in their respective fields of African-American librarianship and art history.” Years after the death of her husband, Porter, in 1972, married Charles Wesley, an American historian and educator who pioneered important studies in black history.

Porter is known for working within the Dewey Decimal system to change the way black writers were classified. She was challenging the implicit bias of the system and through the sheer volume of work at Howard, integrated the collection into the Dewey system as she felt it best represented the culture. She tried to work with the Dewey Society but that was fraught with the word “no”.

She also became known to the A.L.A. (American Library Association) as out-spoken especially in1936 when the 58th annual convention was held in Richmond Virginian. There was an effort to get a large attendance of “Negro librarians”, yet these librarians would have to enter through separate doors and sit in designated “colored” places. In her interview with the Norfolk newspaper, she said “Some of the literary work of the future should, and must, be done by people in the race, but unless our people buy more books, in general, and buy the books by our writers, they will not be able to add to our store of knowledge of ourselves and our answers, or to record fictionally the mods of our people. It happens that writers must eat and that it costs money to publish books.”

That same year, 1936, the president of Howard University was able to secure $1,120,812 in federal funding for the library which today has the purchasing power of $12,092,392. She was known for “stalking” funerals of graduates to “take care” of their books, letters, and documents for the future. She also nurtured relationships with potential donors. When she contacted Will Marion Cook, the famous black composer and violinist who had previously said he would never ever give the library anything, he did respond to her request. “Many, many thanks for your beautiful answer to my evil harangue. It brought tears to my eyes…So long as I live – and wherever I am – you have but to call upon me – and you will find that I am grateful – and shall respond.” He signed his letter “Dad Cook” and vowed to send her an autographed copy of “something worthwhile,” which inevitably would land in the library. Duke Ellington’s response was to send the original manuscript of “Mood Indigo”.

As a public librarian, I marvel at Mrs. Porter’s tenacity and clear career focus. What a glorious role model for women AND librarians.

What Dorothy Porter’s Life Meant for Black Studies

February 24, 2021 – Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar-Nelson, writer

Image –

From Wilmington Delaware, the story of Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar-Nelson (1875-1935), a writer and activist starts with hope.
by Alice Dunbar-Nelson
Wild seas of tossing, writhing waves,
A wreck half-sinking in the tortuous gloom;
One man clings desperately, while Boreas raves,
       And helps to blot the rays of moon and star,
       Then comes a sudden flash of light, which gleams on shores afar.
Alice Dunbar Nelson was born in New Orleans, where she graduated from Straight University in New Orleans with a teaching credential and taught elementary school. Her first collection of poems was published in 1895.
She headed north first to Boston and then New York City where she co-founded and taught at the White Rose Mission a home for girls in Manhattan. She married in 1889, Paul Dunbar while living in Washington who turned out to be abusive, alcoholic, and with tuberculous. They separated in 1902 and he died in 1906. Alice Dunbar then moved to Wilmington Delaware and taught at Howard High School and the precursor to Delaware State University. In 1907, she took leave of her job and became a student at Cornell University return in 1908.
She wrote poetry all her life and continued to be an activist for African Americans and women’s rights. She campaigned for the passage of the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill in 1924 which was blocked in congress of the Southern Democrats.
During her career, she was published in many publications but according to her diary entries:
”Damn bad luck I have with my pen. Some fate has decreed I shell never make money by it.”
She was often denied pay for articles and had issues even receiving recognition for her work. In 1920 she attended Social Justice Day on October 1 against the will of her principal, and for that she lost her job. The School Board, on her behalf, got her reinstated, but she would not return. In 1932, she and her husband moved to Philadelphia and being of poor health, she died in 1934. Her papers are at the University of Delaware a place I worked have have found memories of in the 80s and early 90s.
The poem “Hope” poem is in the public domain
This poem reminds me of all the times I was on deadline (prom, wedding, dance, event) and I wanted to be anywhere else. This poem, though is much deeper as the author, Ms Dunbar-Nelson wants to do anything to help but being a woman in the early 1900s you get to Sit and Sew.

I Sit and Sew


I sit and sew—a useless task it seems,

My hands grown tired, my head weighed down with dreams—

The panoply of war, the martial tred of men,

Grim-faced, stern-eyed, gazing beyond the ken

Of lesser souls, whose eyes have not seen Death,

Nor learned to hold their lives but as a breath—

But—I must sit and sew.


I sit and sew—my heart aches with desire—

That pageant terrible, that fiercely pouring fire

On wasted fields, and writhing grotesque things

Once men. My soul in pity flings

Appealing cries, yearning only to go

There in that holocaust of hell, those fields of woe—

But—I must sit and sew.


The little useless seam, the idle patch;

Why dream I here beneath my homely thatch,

When there they lie in sodden mud and rain,

Pitifully calling me, the quick ones and the slain?

You need me, Christ! It is no roseate dream

That beckons me—this pretty futile seam,

It stifles me—God, must I sit and sew?


February 23, 2021 – Lucille Bridges, activists

February 23, 2021.

Lucille Bridges – WGNO – New Orleans 11-10-2020

I cannot do anything better on this day than to remind us all that Ruby Bridges’ mother was an amazingly strong woman. Lucille Bridges (1934 – 2020) walked her daughter through angry segregationists daily to get her daughter a better education.
May be an image of 3 people and text that says 'A visual reminder of what Ruby Bridges faced every day and why what she did was so powerful glory PICKANINT WHITE ONLY School HEI'
Thank you to,  Aryeonne Johnson for this post from her blog: A Mother Thing Coming
UNSUNG MAMA HERO: November 1960 – Ruby Bridges holds tightly to her mother’s hand as she enters into an angry mob to check into school each day. Ruby’s mom, Lucille Bridges made sure her daughter knew she was safe and was like a shield in every respect by her little girl’s side as she set out to change a nation.
I remember feeling fear once” stated Ruby. “I remember an angry white woman holding a little coffin with a Black doll and her screaming how she would hang me.” “I hesitated and my mother looked me in the eye and said, she won’t hurt you, I’ll see to that. I believed my mother and I kept walking!” Ruby Bridges-Hall is a wife, mother and grandmother. THANK YOU RUBY & LUCILLE BRIDGES. ❤️

February 22, 2021 – Mary Edmonia Lewis, “Wildfire”, sculptor

Edmonia Lewis circa 1870 – Wikipedia

My month-long adventure into amazing black women has been brought me so much joy and awe. But today’s story — I feel if I had ever met Edmonia “Wildfire” Lewis we would have been kindred spirits. I’ve ordered a book to read about her from OhioLink but the best I can do is repeat what my grandmother, Jessie Kirkby would say, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”.
Mary Edmonia Lewis, “Wildfire” (1844-1907) born free in upstate New York, was the first African-American sculptor to achieve international success and spent most of her career in Rome, Italy. Although she was known for giving different information about her past, heritage and life, research suggests she was of mixed parentage – her mother part African and part Ojibwa while her father was reported as Afro-Haitian, or Narragansett, or West Indian Frenchman. She was orphaned at around 3 and went to live with an aunt near Niagara Falls. Her half-brother, Samuel, went west to make his fortune and did in the California gold rush. His sharing of his wealth afforded Lewis education and travel.
Lewis was enrolled in a pre-college program at New-York Central college and although many instructors there became her mentors and records show she was an exemplary student and she learned grammar, Latin, French, arithmetic, drawing, composition and public speaking. Her own words about her education, “Until I was twelve years old I led this wandering life, fishing and swimming . . and making moccasins. I was then sent to school for three years but was declared to be wild.” – Edmonia Lewis
At 15 she was enrolled in Oberlin Academy Preparatory School, changed her name to Mary Edmonia Lewis and began to study art. Although she went to Oberlin, she did not finish. Oh, my what happened was a bad drinking situation and 2 other students got very sick, charges were brought but than dropped for lack of evidence but after that, Lewis seems to have lost her spark for college. From there she went to Rome to study sculpting further and in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia he 3,015-pound marble sculpture of the Death of Cleopatra was on display. This is now part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The body of her work is extensive and located all over the US including Cleveland, Boston, Baltimore, Smithsonian and “The Met”. She moved to London from Rome in 1901 and died in 1907 and is buried in St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery in London. And there are theories and stories that she died in Rome or California.

Hiawatha, 1868, by Edmonia Lewis, inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha. Like Hiawatha, Lewis was of Ojibwe descent. This is located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Forever Free, 1867 is white marble and the words are from Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Forever Free is a celebration of black liberation, salvation, and redemption; and represents the emancipation of African-American enslavement. This piece is at the Howard University gallery of Art in Washington DC.




February 21, 2021 – Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Surgeon General

Dr. Joycelyn Elders – Image Indiana Student Daily

Born Minnie Lee Jones in 1933 in Arkansas to sharecroppers and was the eldest of eight children. She is an American pediatrician, public health administration, served as Surgeon General of the United States where she was only the second woman and first African American to serve as Surgeon General. She graduated from college with a BS in Biology. She worked as a nurse’s aide in a Milwaukee and joined the US Army in 1953 where she was trained a physical therapist. She returned to University of Arkansas Medical School obtaining her M. D. in 1960. She did her residency in pediatrics and later earned a M.S. in Biochemistry.

She was tapped to be the Director of Arkansas Department of Health under Governor Bill Clinton. Her accomplishments included a tenfold increase in early childhood, reducing the teen pregnancy rate by increasing the availability of birth control, counsel and sex education at school-based clinics. Between 1988 to 1992 there was a 24 percent rise in the immunization rate for two-year olds and expansion of availability of HIV testing and counseling, breast cancer screens, and better hospice care for the elderly.

Dr Elders has always been the voice of the African American community and speaks on poverty and its role in teenage pregnancy. She advocated for sex and reproduction education in schools and was vocal about the exploitation of black women often stripping them of their reproductive health choices. She was quoted: “If you can’t control your reproduction, you can’t control your life”.

In 1993, then President Bill Clinton appointed here to the position of Surgeon General. She remained in the position until 1994 when, according to Leon Panetta, “There have been too many areas where the President does not agree with her views.” She was outspoken on abortion, birth control, drug legalization,  marijuana and masturbation. Post Clinton administration, she returned to Arkansas and the University as a pediatrics professor. She has spoken at the United Nations about Aids and in 2020 she was presented with the Ryan White Distinguished Leadership Award by the Indiana University School of Public Health and the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention. At 87, she continues to advocate for children and is a Professor Emerita of Pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.–Joycelyn-Elders.aspx

February 20, 2021 – Florence Griffith-Joyner, athlete

Image – TSL

Florence Griffith Joyner “Flo-Jo” (1959-1998)  Today, she is still the fastest woman of all time. The world records she set in 1988 for both the 100 meter and 200 meter still stand. Let that sink in . . . the records she set in 1988 – 33 years later still stand!!

She was amazing to watch and watch her I did as in the 80s, I ran cross country for Augusta State as a returning adult student (with two kids) but I still made the team. But Ms Joyner wowed us all with her hair streaming behind her, her amazing outfits, very long nails and her most beautiful body.  Most women on the running/track universe were skinny with powerful legs. Flo-Jo was like watching a Greek goddess. For the 1988 Olympic games, she painted her 6 inch logs nails red, white, blue and GOLD! She was induced into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1995. She was also an artist and painter and her work has been displaced as part of the Art of Olympians.

Image – BBC News

Because of her speed and the fact her records remain unbroken, there are still “whisper campaigns” that she used performance enhancing drugs. She was repeatedly tested during competition, and she PASSED all of these drug tests. Dr De Merode later said: “We performed all possible and imaginable analyses on her. We never found anything. There should not be the slightest suspicion.”  Injuries precluded her from continuing her track career.”

Griffith-Joyner died from complications of epilepsy at the age of 38 leaving a husband and daughter behind.

      The Running Goddess – Flo-Jo                          Image Credit –

February 2018: Her flair for fashion included asymmetrical styles and very bright colors. This year, at the Australian Open, Serena Williams had a hidden meaning in one of her outfits.  “I was inspired by Flo-Jo, who was a wonderful track athlete, amazing athlete when I was growing up,” Williams said. “Well, watching her fashion just always changing, her outfits were always amazing. This year we thought, ‘What can we do to keep elevating the Serena Williams [look] on the court?’ The Nike team actually thought of this design of inspiration from Flo-Jo. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is so brilliant.’”

Linda Fayerweather – Augusta State Cross Country 1985. The tall one in the back – I did finish 2nd for the women!











February 19, 2021 – Dr. Marie Clark Taylor, botanist

Sometimes, the term, a life well lived may mean that a person went through life, doing what she loved, making a difference in countless lives and left us little in her personal life, pictures or those intimate stories that intrigue us all.  I would like to think that some of the movies I saw in college classes may have been influenced by Dr. Marie Clark Taylor. 

Marie Clark was born in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania in1911, graduated from Dunbar High School in Washington DC in 1929, and she went to Howard University earning both a BS and MS in Botany. In 1941, she achieved a Ph. D at Fordham University and was the first woman of any race to earn a science doctorate at Fordham. She taught high school and was instrumental in introducing students to the study of plant cells. During World War II she served in the Army Red Cross in New Guinea.

In 1945 she joined the botany department at Howard University then in 1947, she became Chair of the Botany Department until she retired in 1976. She married Richard Taylor whom she met in New Guinea and they had one son in 1950.

During her tenure, the department grew, and she was instrumental in the design and construction of a new biology building on the Howard University campus, the botanical greenhouse laboratory on the rooftop of the Ernest E. Just Hall Biology Building.

Marie was a huge proponent of using plants in classrooms since they were affordable and widely available, compared to animal specimens. She organized a series of instructional workshops for high school teachers to learn about using plant materials to teach their students. With assistance from the National Science Foundation, Marie helped put together 16mm instructional films that teachers could use, ranging from plant growth time-lapse videos to biographies on researchers such as Louie Pasteur.

During the mid-1960s, she was specifically requested by President Lyndon B. Johnson to expand her work nationally and overseas, bringing her teaching style to an international level.

Taylor died on December 28, 1990 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Taylor was a “powerhouse who worked tirelessly to improve teacher training in the sciences,” according to her former colleague and civil rights activist Margaret Strickland Collins.

February 18, 2021 – Bessie Coleman, aviator

June 1921 – Bessie Coleman pilot license from Wikipedia

“The air is the only place free from prejudices. I knew we had no aviators, neither men nor women, and I knew the Race needed to be represented along this most important line, so I thought it my duty to risk my life to learn aviation”– Bessie Coleman (1892-1926)

Bessie Coleman was born in 1892 to a family of sharecroppers in Texas where she worked in the cotton fields as a young child while also studying at a small, segregated school. She became the first African-American woman and the first Native-American to hold a pilot license.

At 23, she moved to Chicago to live with two of her older brothers. She got a job as a manicurist and heard stories of the pilots of World War I and decided to pursue the dream of becoming a pilot. While saving money for school, she soon discovered that for American schools she had two strikes against her, she was a woman and black. Always an avid reader, in her spare time she would read the “Chicago Defender” a weekly newspaper founded by Robert S Abbot for the African American public. She had the opportunity to meet Abbott and they became friends. Abbott encouraged her to move to France where there was less racism, and she did traveling to Paris after studying French at Berlitz Language School in Chicago.

In 1921 she graduated from the Aéronautique Internationale and returned to the US with her international pilot’s license a year later and became as a “barnstorming” stunt flier.  She was often called Queen Bess and Brave Bessie for her flying skills. She used her position as the First African American pilot and her performances as opportunities to encourage other blacks to fly. She refused to perform at locations that would not admit members of her race to the flying clubs.

US Postal Service Image

Her last flight was April 30, 1926 in Jacksonville, FL. She and her mechanic were preparing for an air show that was to take place the following day. At 3,500 feet in the air with her mechanic at the controls, an unsecured wrench got caught in the control gears and the plane plummeted to earth, not wearing a seat belt, Coleman was killed. Over 10,000 mourners paid their last respects to her on Chicago’s South Side. Eda B. Wells presided over the funeral. In 1995 the U S Postal Service issued a first-class stamp in her honor.



February 17, 2021 – Marie Van Brittan Brown, inventor

Marie Van Brittan Brown – Image Wikipedia

Marie Van Brittan Brown was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York City and in the mid sixties, she was concerned about safety in her neighborhood. She was a nurse and her husband, Albert Brown, was an electrician. Neither of their jobs had regular hours and with two children, she decided something needed to be done for safety. The Browns invented an early closed-circuit television system to be used for home monitoring that included a video scanning device and audio equipment. The security system also included a remote door unlocking mechanism. Her idea was the basis for all advanced home security technology in use today, in fact, when you look at it, it seems the Ring® is using this technology.
In 1966, the Browns applied for and were granted a patent in 1969. The patent, #3,482,037 had motion sensors, closed circuit television and even a remote door locking function. Brown was quoted in the New York Times as saying that with her invention “a woman alone could set off an alarm immediately by pressing a button, or if the system were installed in a doctor’s office, it might prevent holdups by drug addicts.” According to a 2016 New Scientist report, 100 million concealed closed-circuit cameras are now in operation worldwide. The Browns had two children and one followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a nurse. She lived her life in Jamaica, Queens until her death in 1999.
She received the National Science Committee awarded for her patent work. Her contribution to home security is cited in 32 subsequent patent applications. According to a 2016 New Scientist report, over 100 million concealed closed-circuit cameras are now in operation around the world.
In my job, I help people understand what a patent is and is not and what is involved in the process. Often we will look at patents that may be similar. I don’t think I have even seen a more creative diagram of the idea.  She has included the bad guy, the woman at home and even the umbrella holder! This is directly for the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  If you  click  on  the  image,  you  will  get  clear  picture.

US Patent 3,482,037 Granted Dec. 2, 1969 Marie Van Britton Brown