5 pivotal moments Black women rebelled and changed the course of history

Three Rebel Queens
The Three Rebel Queens of the Virgin Islands

In a male-dominated society, it is commonplace to find the significant achievements of Black women swept under the rug. The annals of history, however, have retained the memories of some of the awe-inspiring acts of a number of these women and it is necessary that their contribution to global progress and world civilization be made known.

Harriet Tubman

Born Araminta ‘Minty’ Ross, Harriet Tubman changed her name to what she is identified by after her escape from slavery. Harriet was born a slave, but she knew she wouldn’t be defined by that title forever. She worked as a spy, cook, cleaner, nurse and scout during the American Civil War. As a child, little Harriet is reported to have suffered a head injury which consequently resulted in hallucinations and vivid dreams. She is recorded to have become fearless and religious after the trauma and these traits probably resulted in the courage and determination with which she planned and helped many other enslaved African-Americans to freedom in a movement that has been tagged; The Underground Railroad. Harriet Tubman was the conductor of that movement and after the war, she opened up her home and garden to all who may have a need for it. It is this illiterate Black woman whose rebellion shifted the tides of human history and thus, she is worthy of the noblest accolades and honours men can accord her; including a place on the dollar.

The Forten Women

The Forten Women namely; Charlotte Forten (mother), Sarah Forten (daughter), Margaretta Forten (daughter), Harriet Forten (daughter) and Charlotte Forten (granddaughter) supported the abolitionist movement with their intellect and finances. Through three generations, they organized public lectures and informational fairs all in a bid to tear down the fortresses of slavery and are also recorded to have assisted runaway slaves in diverse ways. Their contributions to the Civil Right movement and humanity as a whole moved the Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier to hail them in a poem entitled; ‘To the Daughters of James Forten’.

The Three Rebel Queens

Mary Thomas, Axeline Elizabeth Salomon and Mathilda Mcbean are remembered by the natives of St. Croix and the world at large for their immense contribution to the noble cause of the abolition of slavery. In 1878, houses, sugar mills and over 50 plantations in St. Croix were burned down in protest against unfair treatment of people of Black origin, and the Three Rebel Queens contributed significantly and unapologetically to the cause. The Danish slave colony in St. Croix was not as ‘free’ as was expected by those innocent Afrikan Kings and Queens held as slaves even after the declaration of the Emancipation Proclamation Act. Mary, Axeline and Mathilda in view of the turn of events in St. Croix gave their lives to the restitution of justice through the only means that attract the attention of slaveholders. The West Indies have erected statues to grace their immense contribution to the cause of freedom and a main road in St. Croix has been named after Mary Thomas.

Queen Coziah

Queen Coziah Harmon and three of her siblings were all coal loaders in St. Thomas in the late 19thcentury. The owners of those coal mines they worked for were however unfair in their relation to the workers. Queen Coziah with regards to the situation led in rebellion a non-violent protest against the working and living conditions of herself, her family and every other worker in St. Thomas. It is noteworthy to note that Queen Coziah, her sisters and all who joined hands in the passive act of rebellion had little to no formal education, but they are recorded to have chosen by virtue of thoughtfulness a constructive way of dealing with their grievances. Some scholars have asserted that her non-violent approach influenced Dr Martin Luther King’s approach to his Civil Rights movement.

Mary Eliza Mahoney

Mary Eliza Mahoney

Mary Mahoney was the first licensed African-American nurse in America. From childhood, she nurtured the ambition to rise above the discrimination inflicted on people of colour, so that even as a registered nurse, she chose not to pursue a career in public nursing due to the discrimination with which Black people were treated. In 1908, she co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) all in a bid to stand tall against the derogatory stance of racial discrimination.