this day in black history . . .

The First Vote, 15th Amendment credit: New York Public Library/Science (Original Source)

In the 2017 Senate race in Alabama, things got pretty dicey. The entire country was on pins and needles to see if Roy Moore, and all of the crazy he stands for, was going to be the next Senator for Alabama. We knew we had fallen down the never-ending chaos hole after the 2016 elections, but had we really fallen that far? Electing Moore would have been a stain on Alabama's already controversial past, as well as the entire nation. Luckily, Alabamians realized that Jones was the better choice and they voted to secure his victory. But not all of the Alabama voters, the Black voters. Specifically, Black women.

After realizing what the Black women of Alabama had accomplished, they got a hashtag (#blackwomen) and a lot of accolades and gratitude. This, mostly, came from white people who realized the power of the Black vote. I was struck by this moment for a couple of reasons: First, this was just over a year after the 2016 election and white people, specifically white women, made it clear where they stood and so the “thanking” of Black women, I felt, was saying thanks for doing what we won’t. In this case, it was to keep a truly reprehensible person from getting a job that would have devastating impacts on their lives, regardless of color. But, they had already voted for an equally reprehensible person, so the gratitude felt disingenuous.

Second, I was struck by the “Magical Negro” aspect of this hashtag. It wasn’t that Black women, and men, voters just appeared at the polls and voted, they organized and worked their asses off to get people to vote. They did so by stressing how harmful, if elected, this person would be to the Black community. They honestly were not thinking about white folks. But, as usual, white people, specifically white women, benefit from the work that Black women do to be seen.

In Hollywood, as in politics, the "Magical Negro [Woman]" is a virtuous black character who serves to better the lives of white people via seemingly supernatural means and asks nothing for herself. She is frequently praised for what she has done for white folks, praised for her saintly equanimity and selflessness, and too little acknowledged for all the things — the wiles, the grit, the grinding, thankless work — that went into securing the happy outcome.

“Every time there is something good in this world — know that black women probably did it first, said it first, seen it first. [C]onversely, most negative things in this world, black women tried to save you from.” This is from a piece I read written by Ashley Nkadi “Y’all Don’t Deserve Black Women” where she argued that Black women had been consistently taking political stands that are later taken up by a wider audience. A white audience.

Now that we are in the midst of the 2020 elections, another hashtag has been making the rounds #VoteLikeBlackWomen which, while I agree with this 1,000%, is still interesting considering that the actual right to vote for Black people has always been, and continues to be, an uphill battle.

Lately, I have been receiving a lot of emails asking me if I plan to vote in this year's election. The sense of urgency to save our democracy is the main theme running through these messages to declare my vote and answer straw polls and donate money. There is a lot of focus on the Black vote and whether or not we will use ours to save this democracy that we had no hand in dismantling. I find it fascinating to be at this place in history at this point in time. Don't get me wrong, I am scared as hell about what we have done, as well as where we are headed, but there is this odd feeling that we have been in this place before . . . Oh wait, we were.

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment which granted Black men the right to vote. Notice that women were not part of this process, that would come later and with its own questionable results. In theory, the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted African American men the right to vote by declaring that the "right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

Although ratified on February 3, 1870, the reality of the promise of the 15th Amendment would not be fully realized for almost a century. And still, 150 years later, it not truly a constitutional right. Through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other means, many, particularly Southern states (looking at you Alabama) were able to effectively disenfranchise Black voters. After decades of struggle, through legal action, civil disobedience, and mass politics, the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) finally secured the promises of the 15th Amendment for millions of voters, particularly Southern voters.

Most history books stop here. That is what I learned in school, once the VRA was passed, everything was fine and we had a say. What they didn't teach me in school was that Jim Crow, segregation, redlining, gerrymandering, and voter suppression were the tactics that were being used to make sure that our votes were never fully realized. I guess the truth hurts sometimes.

Now, here we are 150 years later, and we see the continued threat to our vote. While Jim Crow is not [openly] part of the problem, the purging of voter rolls in many states, increased voter laws and restrictions, and, what amounts to, modern day poll taxes to ensure we cannot vote are practices that are alive and well.

Make no mistake, we (Black people) have lived through centuries of being disenfranchised. It hasn't stopped us. But now, your democracy, white people's democracy, depends on us. So, you have a two choices, you can do the #VoteLikeBlackWomen or you can have Roy Moore. But you can't have both.

Our shoulders are tired.

rosa ingram and her teen sons condemned to death!


Black women's bodies have been considered chattel, and there for the taking, since the beginning of time. The ability to protect ourselves has depended on what state we happen to be in when said protection is required. We have seen the case of Cyntonia Brown, the teenager who was trafficked and killed her abuser to receive a life sentence at the age of 16. We have seen the #MeToo movement, which began with Tarana Burke in 2006 after being raped, get hijacked by a white celbrity, Alyssa Milano, which led to a global outcry and many indictments. But that was because white women were affected.

The criminal justice system was never made for Black women, but because of us. But, let more Brock Turners free, and everyone is up in arms. It is still totally wrong that he raped an unconscious woman, but, now we see that white women, y'all aren't safe either. Imagine never having had that protection from the beginning. Would you be numb to the injustice or continue to fight?

On this day in Black History, I am reminded of how cruel and unjust or system truly is. Rosa Lee Ingram was a widowed sharecropper and mother of twelve who lived near Ellaville, Georgia. On November 4, 1947, a confrontation broke out between Ingram and her neighbor, John Ethron Stratford, after he discovered some of her livestock in his field. According to Ingram's initial account of the incident, Stratford threatened her with a rifle and attempted to rape her. Several of her sons intervened, a fight ensued, and when the dust settled, Stratford was dead.

On February 3, 1948, Rosa and two of her teenage sons, were sentenced to death by electrocution for killing a white man in Georgia. They claimed self-defense, but an all white jury didn't buy it and sentenced them to death. Because they were Black and in the deep south. Her case sparked an outrage and galvanized civil rights activist from across the nation to come to her defense. This case was also one that triggered local challenges to the Jim Crow laws that had invaded so much of the South.

You can read more of her story here and here.