The Leesburg Stockade Girls – A Civil Rights Horror of 1963

How Racist Georgia Authorities Held Teenagers in a Secret, Squalid Prison

Two of the 30 girls who were locked away in a secret prison in Americus, Georgia in 1963
Two of more than 30 African American teenage girls who were locked away in secret for 45 days in a dilapidated former Civil War jail for participating in a 1963 Civil Rights protest in Americus, Georgia. (Photo: Danny Lyon, 1963)

It was 13-year-old Shirley Green’s first civil rights demonstration. She went to the protest without her parents’ knowledge, figuring she could make it back home before they did. She was wrong.

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Zitkála-Sá: A 20th-Century Champion of Native American Activism

Her Opera “The Sun Dance” Made Stage History

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School became infamous as a place designed to
Born on a South Dakota Sioux Reservation, the young Gertrude Simmons was pulled between the Indian culture into which she was born and the Euro-American culture that educated her. At 19, she seized on her tribal roots and went on to become one of the most influential Native American activists of the 20th century.

Zitkála-Sá (pronounced Zitkála Shá), also known as Gertrude Evaline Simmons, was born in 1876, year of the Battle of Little Bighorn, on South Dakota’s Yankton Sioux Reservation. Her mother was a full-blooded Dakota Sioux named Ellen Tatiyahewin (“She Reaches for the Wind”) Simmons, her father a white man about whom little is known. We do know he abandoned the family, leaving her mother to raise their children in traditional Sioux ways.

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Author of First Cookbook Written by an African American: Malinda Russell

She Helped Pave the Way for Black Cooks and Writers

A 19th-century health kitchen of the kind Malinda Russell learned to cook in.
There are no known photos or drawings of Malinda Russell who, in 1866, became the first African American to write a cookbook. And it wasn’t about what would later be called “soul food,” but rather her mastery of the sophisticated recipes of European cuisine.

Being a historic foodways researcher, I think of Amelia Simmons, Hannah Glasse, Eliza Leslie and Mary Randolph as old friends. It took chef and culinary historian Michael Twitty’s book, The Cooking Gene, to introduce me to Malinda Russell. Far more than just a collection of recipes, Russell’s slim volume sheds light on the history, culture and power structure of her time.

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Dr. Margaret Chung: Proud ‘Mom’ of WWII’s Fair-Haired Bastards

First Chinese American Female Physician and Wartime Celebrity

Planes of the 'Flying Tigers' unit in World War II.
In one of the more unlikely pairings of World War II, Margaret Chung, the country’s first Chinese-American female physician, helped recruit fighter pilots for the “Flying Tigers.” That unit of P40 aircraft, famed for its planes’ shark face nose art, was secretly equipped and trained by the U.S. military. Its pilots operated in China as mercenaries helping to repel Japanese air raids during the year before America officially entered the war.

From the time she was 10 years old, Margaret Chung wanted to become a doctor. But with no dolls or toys to practice on, she resorted to using banana peels to practice her suture technique. Born into a time when the stories of Chinese Americans were those of rejection and exclusion, Margaret Chung learned early on she would need to forge a distinctive path for herself if she were to achieve her dreams.

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Biddy Mason – From Enslaved to One of Los Angeles’ Wealthiest Women

A mural celebrates Biddy Mason's contributions to the development of early Los Angeles.
In 1949, for its new headquarters building in Los Angeles, the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company commissioned artist Charles Alston to create this mural memorializing the African American contributions to the creation of Los Angeles and the State of California. The overlay in the lower right is the only known photo of Biddy Mason. The red arrow points her out in the mural. Click image for larger color version of mural.

Born into slavery in 1818 and sold away from her parents as a child, Bridget “Biddy” Mason went from being a slave owner’s wedding present to his new bride to one of Los Angeles’ wealthiest women, and one of the first African American women to buy and own property in the United States.

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Against Lynchings and Jim Crow Laws: Mexican-American Activist Jovita Idár

Early 19th-Century Journalist and Feminist Founded League of Mexican Women

Jovita Idár and
A teacher turned journalist who championed the rights of Mexican communities on both sides of the south Texas border, Jovita Idár’s achievements were little-known to the outside world until recent years.

One of eight children born to a family of Mexican-American journalists and social activists in Laredo Texas in 1885, Jovita Idár went on to make her mark as a crusader for civil and women’s rights in a border region notorious for the racist and misogynistic policies and practices of its ruling white culture.

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