By Reagan Jackson
In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ll be posting one story each day of March written by local citizen journalists about a revolutionary woman from history or today who has inspired them as women.
March is not only an opportunity to remember the past, but a time to think critically on how history is created. Who tells the story has a huge impact on how the story is told. And historically, history has not always been herstory. This is especially true when it comes to lives of black women.
The woman I choose to honor is Dr. Stanlie James. Dr. James was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa and was one of twelve students to integrate her high school. She went on to attend Spelman College. While pursuing her BA in Sociology and History, her calling to teach awakened.
First she found herself interested in African American history, then African history. Through her studies she discovered a lack of information about the experiences of women in history. Particularly lacking were narratives portraying the contributions of black women to history.
Dr. James completed her MA in British Colonial West African History at School of Oriental and African Studies in London, then returned to the States to complete a second MA and PhD at the University of Denver in comparative politics and human rights.
She is currently a professor of African American and Women Studies at Arizona State University. She has co-edited three anthologies including Still Brave: The Evolution of Black Women’s Studies with Frances Foster and Beverly Guy Sheftall; Genital Cutting and Transnational Sisterhood: Disputing U.S. Polemics with Claire Robertson; and with Abena Busia, Theorizing Black Feminisms: The Visionary Pragmatism of Black Women.
Still Brave is the much anticipated sequel to All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies. Originally published in 1982, the first “Brave” is known as the first comprehensive collection of black feminist scholarship. In creating the sequel, Dr. James and her colleagues had the daunting task of canonizing our history and setting the tone for how our stories will be conceptualized in the years to come.
If black women do amazing things, but no one is there to remember them, how can we help the next generation of visionary pragmatists to understand their powerful legacy of forging our own path? What is unique to her scholarship is its interdisciplinary nature. Dr. James links politics, sociology, history, international studies, and human rights, putting it together to understand the work that black women have done. Her newest work chronicles the contributions of black women who, finding civil rights to be inadequate means of improving the lives of people, have turned to International Women’s Human Rights.
When I was asked to choose a woman to honor for women’s history month, so many sheros jumped to my mind from Ida B. Wells and Harriet Tubman, to Mary Elizabeth Bowser, Anna Julia Cooper, Ella Baker, and Mae Jemison. But the person who introduced me to my sheroes was Dr. James, who in addition to be an incredible teacher, scholar, writer, and all around black feminist badass also happens to be my mom.
She has done for me what she has done for thousands of others: given me a sound foundation of empowering role models who have helped me to know myself and the legacy of my foremothers.
Reagan Jackson is a writer, artist, activist, international educator and award winning journalist. She is also the Program Manager for Young Women Empowered. Her self published works include two children’s books (Coco LaSwish: A Fish from a Different Rainbow and Coco LaSwish: When Rainbows Go Blue) and three collections of poetry (God, Hair, Love, and America, Love and Guatemala, and Summoning Unicorns). To find out more check her out at www.rejjarts.com.
Featured Image: Dr. Stanlie James (front row, second from left) with her students at ASU (Courtesy of Stanlie James)