25 Mar

Mappy Monday: Black Women in History

By Thomas Jang

Assembled by Global Tech Advocates for the project Black Women In Tech, this is the first interactive map of Black women in history, highlighting Black women around the world who have made significant contributions to healthcare, politics, music, and much more. Floating around the oceans are small boats with the names of brands supporting the project. Profiles of these extraordinary figures in history span across Africa, Europe, North America, and Latinidad. 

🇭🇹 From the island of Ayiti is Catherine Flon (1772-1831), who created the Haitian flag. After being asked by the leaders of the Haitian Revolution, she manifested this symbol of the first liberated Black republic by removing the white section from the French flag and sewing together its blue and red fabrics. More than 220 years later, this contribution by Flon continues to endure as a symbol of Haitian independence, a resistance against slavery and colonial rule, and the strength of its diaspora. 

🇻🇪 Across the ocean on mainland South America is Venezuela, where women’s rights activist and educator Argelia Laya (1926-1997) hailed from. A former guerrilla fighter for the Venezuelan Communist Party, Laya was the first to speak openly of a woman’s right to have children outside of marriage and to have an abortion. Alongside founding the Movement to Socialism (MAS), Laya fought for anti-discrimination laws and has influenced policies and programs for gender equality. 

🇱🇧 The state of Lebanon owes the existence of their healthcare system to Mary Lee Mills (1912-2010), an American nurse who created the country’s first nursing school. By creating and expanding on a medical curriculum to include pharmacology and nursing, Mills trained many individuals eager to practice nursing. 

🇸🇦🇪🇬 Active from the 1960’s to the 1990’s, Etab (1947-2007) shaped the world of music in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The first female Saudi vocalist, she was expelled from Saudi Arabia by then-King Khalid who accused her for her “risqué” performances. After gaining Egyptian citizenship in 1983, she further enhanced her status as a major artist by becoming a member of the Union of Arab Artists and Musicians Syndicate.

🇳🇴 Also a powerhouse in the music scene was Ruth Reese (1921-1990), a Black-American-Norwegian singer, whose voice and charm was able to lower racial discriminatory barriers in Norway. With her written work Var hud er sort, published in 1959, she was able to highlight the racial issues that impacted other Black people in Norway. 

🇨🇦 Parallel to the American civil right movement, its Canadian counterpart was in fact sparked by the actions of Viola Desmond (1912-2010), who refused to move her seat at Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia and was arrested. She was able to become a major figure in this underrepresented era of Canada’s history, parallel to one of the most significant developments in the U.S. in the 1960’s.