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July 2, 2020

"My _____ was a Suffragist"


Transcribed interview from NYT article by Jennifer Harlan

NYT Suffragist.jpg

     My brother and I were brought up telling Maggie Walker’s story, and it’s a responsibility I take very seriously. But the family narrative I grew up telling was focused on the work she did as the first African-American woman to charter a bank in the United States. It wasn’t until recently, as part of my work campaigning in Virginia for the Equal Rights Amendment, that I really learned about her involvement in the political field. Knowing her, though, it didn’t come as a surprise: In everything she did, her focus was on empowering her community.

     She was not necessarily out and marching — Maggie was partially disabled because of diabetes — but she organized. When women did get the right to vote, she made sure it wasn’t just for white women: She registered hundreds of Black women to vote that first year. She and other contemporaries also formed a “Lily Black” ticket, in response to the “lily white” ticket in the Republican Party, and in 1921 she became the first Black woman to run for statewide office in Virginia.

     This 100th anniversary is coming at a pivotal time. We’re seeing the call for Black voices to be highlighted in this country, where they’ve been silenced for so long. It’s so important for young Black women to have somebody like Maggie to look up to, and being able to use my voice to share her story is a huge honor.

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