Nevertheless, black women persisted

Two things happened this month that perfectly collided for the making of this story. First, Vice President Mike Pence kicked off Black History Month by praising a white man, and then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell silenced a woman reading a letter about racism.

McConnell silenced Senator Elizabeth Warren during Jeff Sessions’ attorney general hearing, saying she had “impugned the motives of our colleague.” She had been reading a letter Coretta Scott King wrote in 1986 objecting to a different appointment of Sessions, arguing he had a history of racial discrimination.

Commenting on Warren’s reading, McConnell said, “she was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

“Nevertheless, she persisted” has been picked up as a rallying cry for women, with articles about important women in history and even a t-shirt from Reebok.

In honor of Black History Month and the power of women, here are nine black women who, despite everything, persisted.

Ruby Bridges

Bridges was the first African-American to attend a white school in Louisiana during desegregation. Three others began around the same time in the state, but went to a different school. She is now an anti-racism activist, and was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001.

Rosa Parks

I’m assuming we all know who Rosa Parks was, but I’d be remiss not to include her. She was ordered to give up her seat for a white person (she was warned) but refused (she persisted). Her actions sparked the influential Montgomery bus boycott.

Harriet Tubman

The famed abolitionist, who escaped slavery only to go back into slave-owning territory 19 times to save 300 more slaves, is about as persistent as you can get.

Laverne Cox

Cox experienced excessive bullying in her childhood for not acting the way a boy was expected to. Since then, she has become an vocal trans rights activist and a successful actress. She is also the first transgender person to be on the cover of Time.

Marsha P. Johnson

However, Cox is by no means the first black trans person in the public eye (while Marsha would fluctuate on gender identity, she often used she/her pronouns, particularly when working in drag). Martha was a leader at the standoff that culminated in the Stonewall Riots, and was a prominent advocate for trans and gay rights. She was also an AIDS activist and worked to provide housing for homeless LGBT youth.

Michelle Obama

From being called an “ape in heels” and not “classy enough” to be First Lady, Michelle Obama was beaten down during her years at the White House. But when everyone else went low, Michelle went high.

Shirley Chisholm

In 1968, Chisholm became the first African-American woman elected to Congress, and represented New York’s 12th district for seven terms. In her first election, her victory was a major upset, and she won by an almost two-to-one margin. In 1971, she was a founding member of both the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Women’s Political Caucus.

Sharon Pratt Kelly

Kelly was the first African-American female mayor of a major U.S. city, and that city happens to be our very own Washington, D.C.

Nadja Y. West

West holds three “first” titles: she is the first black Army Surgeon General, the first black female to be an active duty major general and the first black female major general in Army Medicine. Even better, she earned her Doctorate of Medicine at GW.

And the list goes on. These are just a few black women in America who we can say “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Originally published at by Emily Milakovic on 2.23.17.
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