Celebrate Black History Month

[This post is partially from a blog shared at girlscouts.org February 1, 2016]

When you think about history, it’s likely that you think about things that happened a long time ago, perhaps even in a land far, far away. But the truth is, history is happening right now—it’s all around us, and it vibrates through the very fabric of the Girl Scout movement. Think about it: Girl Scouts all over the country are in the process of making history in their schools and communities, instituting meaningful change, standing up for what’s right, breaking records, and setting new precedents.

All of this is why when we celebrate Black History Month, we not only honor and remember the phenomenal black women we learned about in our history books in school—we also celebrate the ongoing strength and vision of the black girls and women who are creating change as we speak.

Just take a minute to think about the black women, both young and more experienced at life, who’ve made headlines in the past few years:

  • In 2014, Mo’ne Davis, then 13, wasn’t just the first African American girl to play in the Little League World Series, she was also the first girl to pitch a shutout in the competition’s history. 
  • That same year, Mia Love got attention as the first black Republican woman in Congress.
  • And in the legal world, 2015 brought us Paulette Brown, who was named the first woman of color to become president of the American Bar Association. 
  • Last year, Misty Copeland was the first African American woman to be named principal dancer in the American Ballet Theater’s 75-year history. 
  • Also in 2015, Viola Davis became the first African American actress to take home an Emmy award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series, and quoted civil rights activist Harriet Tubman in her acceptance speech.   
  • The U.S. Senate made Loretta Lynch the first Black female attorney general in 2015.
  • Last year, actress and recording star Zendaya not only spoke out against stereotypes about African American hair, she also teamed up with Mattel to create the first Black Barbie doll with a natural hair style. “When I was little, I couldn’t find a Barbie who looked like me. My…how times have changed,” she said. 
  • Simone Biles dominated at the 2016 Olympics and stands as the most decorated gymnast in American history, and ranks third highest around the world. Plus, who can forget her iconic statement when being compared to other athletes: “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles”

We have so much to learn from the leaders who have shaped our world. One such leader (literally in the Girl Scout sense) is Josephine Holloway. Artist Alleanna Harris highlighted her in a Black History Month in 2017, and we love what she made:

Here’s what she shared: “Today’s Black History Month illustration is of Josephine Holloway, the first black Girl Scout Troop Leader. In 1933, she attempted to form a Girl Scout troop for black girls, but the Nashville Girl Scout Council denied her request. In 1942, after lobbying for about 10 years, the first black Girl Scout troop was established. Holloway was such an expert of girls issues that the Girl Scouts hired her as a field advisor for all black troops. Over her time as a field advisor, she supervised over 2,000 black girls and adults.”

Ida B. Wells – Women’s History Month Day 2

Ida B. Wells was born into slavery in Mississippi when the Civil War was in its infancy. In the early years of her life, she and her family were freed after the war and then became active in Reconstruction Era politics.

Taught to value education, Ida went to Rust College, but was eventually expelled for starting an argument with the president of the university. While visiting her grandma, she learned that yellow fever had swept her hometown, taking both her parents and youngest brothers.

Instead of continuing to pursue education, Ida was left to care for sister and brothers. Together, they moved to Memphis where she began her career as an educator.

At this point her activism began to really take off. In 1884, Ida was refused a seat on a first-class train, even though she had a ticket. After filing a lawsuit against the train company, she saw victory in her local circuit but the decision was ultimately overturned in federal court.

Soon after one of her friends was lynched, causing her to focus on white mob violence. Her career as an investigative journalist took off as she researched why black men were lynched. Her writing was published in several newspapers’ columns as well as in a pamphlet, but it eventually led locals to drive her from Memphis. The threats continued and increased in severity, causing her to move to Chicago.

The women’s suffrage movement was taking off, and while Ida supported the cause, she was upset that the women involved ignored the problem of lynching. True to her nature, she would openly confront these women.

Because of this, she wasn’t active in any of the women’s suffrage organizations, but that didn’t stop her from staying active in the movement. Instead, she founded the National Association of Colored Women’s Club to address both women’s suffrage and civil rights.

In 1905, W.E.B. DuBois and William Monroe Trotter came to Niagara Falls and began the Niagara Movement. This annual meeting happened from 1905 to 1908 and Ida B. Wells was in attendance.

Though she isn’t listed as one of its founders, Ida B. Wells attended the events of what would become the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP.

Read More about Ida: