Women’s History Trivia: First Female African American Physician

The New England Female Medical College (Image Source: Wikipedia Commons)

By: Alyssa Bradley

Trivia Question: Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first African-American woman to become a _______ (occupation) in the United States. 

Answer: Physician

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler is recognized for becoming the first African-American woman physician in the United States. As a young girl, she grew up in a house with her aunt who took care of the ill. Rebecca was always considered a “special student” and was allowed to attend many prestigious private schools because of her intellect.

Later in life, she pursued her shared family passion for medicine.  During 1860, Crumpler applied and was accepted into the New England Female Medical College. This institution was founded in 1848 and had only started accepting its first female student, a class of 12, in 1850. The women at this college faced ridicule from male physicians who derided the institution. They complained that women “lacked the physical strength to practice medicine”. Others thought that women were incapable of understanding a medical curriculum and that the topics taught were inappropriate for their “sensitive and delicate nature”.

In 1860, there were only 300 women out of 54,543 physicians in the United States–and none of them were African American. Despite the discouraging odds, in 1864 Crumpler became her school’s only African-American graduate.

After completing her schooling, Crumpler relocated to Richmond, Virginia where she found her calling. She discovered “the proper field for real missionary work, and one that would present ample opportunities to become acquainted with the diseases of women and children.” It was here she worked under the Freedman’s Bureau, an agency dedicated to helping newly freed African American slaves.

Throughout the rest of her practice, Rebecca faced daily issues of racism and sexism from her colleagues, pharmacists, and many others. Rebecca Lee Crumpler continued to practice medicine and even wrote a book called A Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts. She passed in 1895. Crumpler achieved many things in the name of gender and women’s equity and paved the way for many of those who continue to defy adversity.

5 Black Artists Bringing Excellence to the KC Art Scene

By: Emma Sauer

Kansas City has more to offer than barbecue and sports teams. This is a thriving city teeming with talent, innovation, and excellence, and the city owes much of that to the Black community. From the American Jazz Museum to the AAAC (African American Arts Collective), Black artists have an established presence in Kansas City. Here’s a list (in no particular order) of five Black creators who make incredible art.

Meeks Me Smile Studio

@meeksmesmilestudio Instagram

Shawanna Meeks founded Meeks Me Smile to offer unique, and stylish handbags. One night while getting dressed for a night out with her friends, she realized she didn’t have the right handbag to match her fun night. So, she made her own. The shop offers small accessories, wallets,  clutch bags, totes, handbags, and more–all with cute and colorful prints. Considering these bags are all handmade, they’re marked at a remarkably affordable price. Costs range from $15 to $155 (not including shipping). Meeks Me Smile Studio also dabbles in furniture design and acrylic paintings.

Sonia Sanchez

Source: Creative Commons, John Mathew Smith, https://www.flickr.com/people/36277035@N06

Sonia Sanchez is a poet, playwright, author, and activist. A major influence in the Black arts movement, she’s received both the Robert Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime service to American poetry and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award. Her poetry is known for its mixing of musical elements and traditional poetry. Through her poems she celebrates the art of Black English. Sonia Sanchez’s 16 books have moved readers since her first collection of poems, Homecoming, in 1969. Not much of her poetry is free to read online, but you can check out her books at your local library or purchase them.

Arie Monroe

“Block and Delete”, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

If you like comics or pop art, you’ll love Arie Monroe’s colorful and expressive art. Her comic Tornado Alley, starring Mainasha and her cat Socks, is a wacky take on the Wizard of Oz, but it’s also been a way for Monroe to to communicate her struggles as a black woman, according to her caption statement on “Block and Delete”, a piece currently on display in the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. She also specializes in caricature art. On Redbubble, she has merch available featuring caricatures, the Tornado Alley crew, and other illustrations.

Whitney Manney

@WhitneyManney Instagram

Whitney Manney is both a fashion designer and her independent ethical fashion label of the same name. WM’s clothes are bold, taking inspiration from street art and urban culture. Whitney Manney aims to make clothes that are more than clothes; they make ready-to-wear wearable art. As for the artist herself, she’s showcased her work at over a dozen galleries and runway shows, including the UMKC Gallery of Art. She’s also done teaching partnerships with the HALO foundation (a foundation dedicated to helping homeless KC youth), and other schools around the area.

NedRa Bonds

Image Source: Connie Fiorella Fitzpatrick, Creative Commons

NedRa Bonds is an activist, quilt artist, and retired teacher in Kansas City, Kansas. Her vibrant, collage-like quilts often make strong statements about the social issues she’s passionate about. Her artwork has been directly inspired by issues of human rights, social justice, race, and environmentalism, to name a few. Bonds also often incorporates elements of satire and political commentary into her art, echoing her principles as an activist. She’s made over 100 quilts since 1989, many that have been shown at different art shows and exhibits in KC. If you’ve spent some time at the Women’s Center, her art may look familiar: for the Women’s Center’s 40th anniversary, she led the creation of our Women’s Equity Quilt!





Keep your hands to yourself!


By: Jetzel Chavira

“Don’t Touch My Hair” is a powerful anthem that Grammy-award winning artist Solange Knowles wrote in 2016. In an interview with Natelegé Whaley for the Huff Post, Solange recalls an experience where a white woman came up to her and petted her fro.

This made me think about the many times I walked through Target with my best friend who is a Black American woman, and how she could not find products for her hair. I think about how my own hair is wavy and it’s not hard for me to find hair products. My hair is not seen as a spectacle. I have never once been asked for my hair to be touched.

So, the next time you see someone whose hair is different than yours, check yourself before you do or say anything. Check out Solange’s song “Don’t Touch My Hair” ft. Sampha here.


Bessie Coleman

By Matiara Huff

Bessie_Coleman_and_her_plane_(1922)Bessie Coleman was the first black female pilot. She was born in 1892 in Atlanta, Texas. Her story is so influential because of how she became a pilot. Coleman attempted to go to flight school in the U.S., but she couldn’t because of her race and gender. In 1922 while working as a manicurist, she taught herself French, so that she could go to flying school in France. She received she license from Caudron Brother’s School of Aviation. When she moved back to the U.S., she practiced as often as she could by participating in air shows everywhere, and eventually specialized in stunt flying and parachuting. She died in a plane crash while on her way to an airshow in Dallas, Texas. Bessie is still an inspiration to many. She was honored in 1995 by the U.S. Postal Service with a Black Heritage commemorative stamp. Bessie helped pave the way so that black people no longer have to leave the country to learn to fly.

bell hooks: Intersectional feminist

By Matiara Huff

bellhookbell hooks, her name is powerful enough. If you don’t know how she is, this post will serve as an introduction.

bell hooks or Gloria Jean Watkins was born September 25, 1952 and has basically been an intersectional feminist ever since. She is most well known for her feminist theory that recognizes that social classifications (e.g., race, gender, sexual identity, class, etc.) are interconnected, and that ignoring their intersection creates oppression towards women and change the experience of living as a woman in society. bell hook’s most famous book, Ain’t I a woman?: Black women and feminism addresses the effects of the intersection of racism and sexism on black women, and how the convergence of sexism and racism have contributed to black women having the lowest status in American society. hook has also written a long list of other feminist books including children’s books, chapters in other people’s books, and articles in peer reviewed journals.

Aint I a women? completely changed how the world perceived black women when it came out in 1981, and is still very relevant today. Without her work, black women would be far more oppressed. bell hook was one of the intersectional feminist who brought race (and other marginalized identities) into feminism; thus, making feminism more inclusive and applicable. bell hook has made such a huge impact on feminism as we know it today, and we will forever be grateful for her contributions.

Remembering Maya Angelou

Image sourced through Creative Commons via Google Images

Image sourced through Creative Commons via Google Images

By Matiara Huff

Marguerite Annie Johnson was born April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. When she was  young, her parents split up so she and her older brother went to live with their father’s mother in Stamps, Arkansas. While living there Angelou experience racism and discrimination first hand, and learned to deal with it. Then, while on a trip to visit her mother, Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, who was later killed out of vengeance by her uncle. This experience traumatized her so much that she became mute for several years after. Later, Angelou moved to San Francisco, California for school, and became the first black female cable car conductor. When she was sixteen, she had her son and began working a number of jobs to support him.

In the mid-1950’s Angelou starred in the touring production of Calypso Heat Wave, and released the album Miss Calypso. Then she organized and starred in Cabaret for Freedom, as a member of the Harlem writer’s guild and a civil rights activist. Throughout most of the 60’s she lived abroad in Egypt, then Ghana working as a free-lance editor. In 1969 she published the memoirs of her childhood called I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings which made literary history because she was the first African-American nonfiction writer to become a best-seller. She continued to break records when she was the first African- American women to have a screen play produced with Georgia.

Throughout her career, Maya Angelou has opened doors for the African-American community and the eyes of many ignorant people. Because of this we will forever be in debt to her. The influence she created will continue to live through all of us so that she will never die. Rest In Power.