From the Slums of Martinique to the Top of Harlem’s Numbers Rackets
The Harlem Renaissance of the ‘20s and ‘30s was a hotbed of African American music, dance, art, fashion, literature, politics, and scholarship. It gave us luminaries like Langston Hughes, Josephine Baker, W.E.B. DuBois and Jessie Redmon Fauset. But for many, when it came to Black identity, community and the everyday experience of Black people, a woman named Stephanie St. Clair loomed large.
Led the Alaskan Battle for the First U.S. Anti-Discrimination Law
Pauli Murray. Fannie Lou Hamer. Dorothy Height. Rosa Parks. Mary Church Terrell. Ida B. Wells-Barnett. When you think of female civil rights activists, these are just some of the names that come to mind. But Elizabeth Peratrovich? Chances are her name probably wouldn’t be on that list. But she was the Alaska Native civil rights champion who was instrumental in the 1945 passage of what was the United States’ very first anti-discrimination law.
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.
She Helped Pave the Way for Black Cooks and Writers
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.