Untold Fight for Black Women's Voting RightsHistorians in the News
tags: legal history, African American history, voting rights, womens history
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the United States constitution, granting women across the country access to vote — or so the textbooks have said. Martha S. Jones, a historian, educator and author of upcoming book “Vanguard: How Black Women Overcame Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All,” has dedicated her personal and professional life to uncovering the untold histories of African American women in U.S. politics.
Born in Central Harlem to an African American father and German and Irish mother, Jones attended the City University of New York School of Law, began her professional career as a lawyer and spent her free time exploring her family’s genealogy.
“I was born before the important decision Loving v. Virginia in 1964, which declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional,” Jones said. “There really wasn’t a vocabulary for people like me, or people who would be deemed ‘mixed-race’ or ‘biracial,’ and the family I was brought up in.”
With a growing curiosity for her African American ancestry, Jones began to pursue history in her academic endeavors at Columbia University and began teaching as a law, history and African American studies professor at the University of Michigan.
Today, she is a professor in the John Hopkins University history department, the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor, immediate past co-president of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians and an award-winning author.
Her new book “Vanguard,” which will be released in September, goes past the standard story of women’s suffrage and explores the history of African American women’s battle for the ballot. Jones was featured in a Facebook Live event hosted by PBS Books in partnership with the Northwest African American Museum July 29 to discuss “Vanguard” as a part of the Trailblazing Women Virtual Series. Her interview is now available indefinitely on the PBS Books Facebook page, YouTube channel and website.
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