Enslaved African Women in the U.S. 1619-2024: Hidden Figures of Women’s History

During this  Women’s History Month,  it is important to recognize and honor the contributions of enslaved African women, like my great-great-great grandmother EMMA WILLS,  who, despite facing unimaginable hardships, left an indelible mark on history.

Enslaved women in the United States endured unspeakable horrors, including forced labor, sexual violence, and family separation. Yet, in the face of adversity, they displayed extraordinary resilience and strength.  While imprisoned on a slave plantation in Haywood County, Tennessee EMMA transitioned from bondage to freedom after the end of The Civil War in 1865 

EMMA and countless girls and women whose names have disappeared from history,  worked tirelessly in the fields, in the homes of their enslavers, and in various industries, contributing significantly to the economic development of this country. They were also skilled midwives, healers, artisans, and leaders within their communities.  Oppression aside, they navigated their way through a netherworld, and survived!

Beyond their labor, enslaved women like my EMMA,  played a crucial role in preserving African traditions, passing down stories, and fostering a sense of community among those who were forcibly brought together. These fearless women resisted enslavement in various ways, from simple acts of defiance to leading rebellions like Harriet Tubman. 

Notable figures like Sojourner Truth and Mary Seacole exemplify the indomitable spirit of these original BOSS LADIES. Truth was a powerful abolitionist and women’s rights advocate, using her own experiences to speak out against slavery and discrimination. Tubman risked her life to lead hundreds of enslaved people to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Seacole was a Jamaican-born nurse and businesswoman who established a hotel in Crimea during the Crimean War, providing care to wounded soldiers.  On a personal level, EMMA may not be a household name, but she was the first free mother in our family to ensure that all of her children were educated.  And she also fought for her widow’s pension after her Civil War Veteran husband, Sandy Wills, died. 

These warriors, along with countless others, left a lasting legacy that continues to inspire and empower women today. WE OWE THEM!  WHAT DO WE OWE THEM EXACTLY? WE OWE THEM OUR EXCELLENCE.  WE OWE THE CHILDREN .. TO SHARE THEIR STORIES WITH INTEGRITY TO INSPIRE THE NEXT GENERATION!  Their stories remind us of the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of fighting for justice and equality.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let us honor the enslaved women whose contributions were often overlooked and undervalued. Their strength, courage, and determination serve as a reminder of the extraordinary power of EVERY EMMA WHO EVER LIVED  to overcome adversity and shape history.