By Rhonda D. Apple, Pentagram Staff WriterFebruary 10, 2012
WASHINGTON (Feb. 10, 2012) -- Their stories may be as varied as their careers and places they lived; however, African-American women have shared a common bond throughout history. The myriad of careers held and experiences dealing with their race and gender are woven into their life stories.
Singer Marian Anderson (1897-1993) was the first African-American to be named a permanent member of the Metropolitan Opera Company and the first to perform at the White House. Anderson sang in church choirs, and then began her concert career in 1924, achieving success in Europe. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow Anderson to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Eleanor Roosevelt resigned her DAR membership in protest and sponsored Anderson's concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Anderson was appointed to the United Nations as an alternate delegate in 1958, and in 1963, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Harriet Tubman (1819/20-1913) was known as Moses by the hundreds of slaves she helped to freedom. Tubman became the most famous leader of the Underground Railroad to aid slaves escaping to free states or Canada. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped in 1849 to Philadelphia, via the Underground Railroad, an elaborate and secret series of houses, tunnels, and roads set up by abolitionists and former slaves to shepherd slaves to freedom. She served as a nurse, scout and spy for the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, she continued to work in social issues, including the women's rights movement.
The U.S. Army is, and always has been, a reflection of American society and values. American society was racially segregated in the 1940s, so too was the Army -- and the Women's Army Corps. That fact did not prevent minority women from serving their country. Over 150,000 American women served in the Womens Army Corps (WAC) during World War II. Among them, the first Negro WACs to arrive in Europe were 855 women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, who had also been the first to arrive in Europe.
Sgt. Danyell Wilson was the first African-American tomb sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Wilson, a native of Alabama, was inspired to succeed in the Army by the civil rights struggles in her home state.
Carla J. Grantham retired from the Coast Guard after completing over 22 years of service. Her last leadership position in the service was as deputy director of the Coast Guard's leadership and professional development office. Grantham also served as the executive speechwriter to the commandant of the Coast Guard and director of non-academy officer recruitment. Currently working as a coach, master facilitator, trainer and public speaker, Grantham will be the guest speaker at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall African-American/Black History Month celebration Feb. 22.