Women’s History Month – observed this March with the theme of Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories – serves as an important reminder of the incredible impact women have on shaping the narratives of our society.
From writers and activists to journalists and scholars, women have played critical roles documenting the experiences and struggles of marginalized communities. Their contributions have been instrumental in molding our understanding of the world around us.
This month, we take time to reflect on the many women who have paved our way and whose stories continue to inspire and empower us today. We can celebrate the courage and tenacity of women like Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Angela Davis, who used their voices and platforms to challenge the status quo and demand justice for all.
“The large majority of book bans underway today are not spontaneous, organic expressions of citizen concern. Rather, they reflect the work of a growing number of advocacy organizations that have made demanding censorship of certain books and ideas in schools part of their mission.” ~PEN America
This is especially salient as the United States faces a growing onslaught of rightwing activism aimed at oppressing and suppressing non-dominant culture voices. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is leading an aggressive attack on the inclusion of authors like Kimberlé Crenshaw and concepts like Critical Race Theory (CRT) from Advanced Placement (AP) African American studies courses. DeSantis is also trying to ban books that tell the stories of marginalized people – going so far as to suggest banning Gender Studies from colleges.
In a recent interview with the Guardian, ‘Just the tip of the iceberg’: Kimberlé Crenshaw warns against rightwing battle over critical race theory, Professor Crenshaw warns that this reshaping of classroom curricula is part of a larger effort to erase the progress of the Civil Rights Era and push the U.S. toward a more authoritarian future. And she’s correct. Not only has DeSantis promised to apply his policies to the entire nation if he’s elected president, he’s doing so in coordination with ongoing efforts to ban books and stories from libraries and public schools. These attempts at erasure don’t just impact Southern states – they’ve made their way to Washington state as well.
In a recent study conducted by PEN America, Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools, researchers found that throughout the 2021-‘22 year, more districts and more books were being challenged than ever before. In their Index of School Book Bans, they list 2,532 instances of individual books being banned, affecting 1,648 unique book titles. The majority of the books are written about or by marginalized communities like Black, Indigenous, Queer, and groups with intersectional identities.
Importantly, PEN America points out: “The large majority of book bans underway today are not spontaneous, organic expressions of citizen concern. Rather, they reflect the work of a growing number of advocacy organizations that have made demanding censorship of certain books and ideas in schools part of their mission.”
We should also remember the countless women whose stories may never have been told but whose experiences and contributions have been just as important. Women who have fought for their families, communities, and causes, often without recognition or reward, but whose impact can be seen in the countless lives they’ve touched.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let us also commit to continuing the work of telling women’s stories and amplifying their voices. Let us uplift and support women in all areas of society and work toward a future where every woman’s story is valued and heard.
TAKE ACTION: #UpliftBlackFeministScholars for #WomensHistoryMonth
Speak out online
The African American Policy Forum (AAPF) created graphics and captions you can share on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to amplify nine Black women who’ve been expunged from AP African American Studies courses in Florida. In this awareness-raising campaign, the AAPF asks that you download the images and post according to the specified social media platforms. You’ll find the images in the AAPF Social Media Toolkit. See instructions, hashtags, and caption suggestions below.
AAPF suggests posting all 10 images as a thread, with the introduction image first followed by the nine subsequent images of the scholars (see the AAPF Social Media Toolkit). Please use one of the three captions below for the first post in your thread, and don’t forget to tag AAPF’s Twitter. Some Twitter caption options you can use:
- For #WomensHistoryMonth, I’m joining @AAPolicyForum in uplifting the names and contributions of Black feminist scholars who have been removed from @CollegeBoard’s revised Feb 2023 AP African American Studies Official Framework. #UpliftBlackFeministScholar
- In February 2023, @CollegeBoard removed the names of key Black feminist scholars from its AP African American Studies Official Framework. Join @AAPolicyForum in uplifting their names and contributions for #WomensHistoryMonth and #InternationalWomensDay. #UpliftBlackFeministScholar
- Uplift the names of key Black feminist scholars and honor their contributions for #WomensHistoryMonth and #InternationalWomensDay. Join @AAPolicyForum and me in advocating for their inclusion in @CollegeBoard’s Feb 2023 AP African American Studies Official Course Framework. #UpliftBlackFeministScholars
Instagram & Facebook
AAPF suggests posting as a carousel with the introduction image first and the nine subsequent images of the scholars in the order shown in the AAPF Social Media Toolkit. See the companion caption below and don’t forget to tag AAPF’s Instagram and Facebook.
For #WomensHistoryMonth, we invite you to join us in celebrating and uplifting Black women authors and thinkers whose ideas are vital to our understanding of the world. As their work is under attack by rightwing demagogues, now is the time to unite in defense of their scholarship and behind the freedom of knowledge itself. #UpliftBlackFeministScholars
These women are thought leaders, and what they illuminate with their work are the truths of our society – and the paths of deep understanding that must be traveled to arrive at change. They cannot and should not be erased by bad-faith political actors or institutions like @collegeboard, whose capitulation to politicians weakens access to critical ideas through public education and the very foundations of our democracy.
If you care about defending the work of these women and anti-racism, intersectionality, and Black feminism, please consider signing our coalition’s Open Letter to @collegeboard – and join the movement to defend Black voices, Black citizenship, and Black lives.
Speak out in your community
In whatever spaces you find yourself, consider using this time to amplify the voices of those whose stories are facing erasure. Simone Marrion, Solid Ground’s Volunteer Coordinator and a member of our Anti-Racism Initiative Steering Committee, recently shared these words during an all-staff meeting.
“There are many aspects of Women’s History that could be discussed today, but we chose to focus on women’s labor and specifically the intellectual labor of BIPOC women. We make this choice because there is an attack taking place right now on the intellectual work of BIPOC women which is a threat to our collective liberty and a threat to decades of anti-oppression work by LGBTQIA Women and BIPOC communities.
“I think we know that the last six years of our nation’s political life has been a live illustration that our collective freedom is intimately tied together. If we are going to change things, it is critical that we see what is happening around us and act before it is too late.
“The intellectual labor of BIPOC Women and specifically Black women have given us some of the very words in which we now discuss anti-racism, including the term ‘anti-racist’ and ‘intersectionality.’ (Thank you, Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw.)
“You may have noticed that many schools and learning institutions are struggling against book bans, usually targeting books that have anything to do with race.
“The current book bans in schools – including attempts in our local schools – are often led by organizations such as the rightwing think tank The Heritage Foundation, that provide national coordination for what appears at the surface to be the concerns of local parent groups.
“These groups seek to ban the works of authors such as Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Anne Frank, to list just a few. They are part of an effort to label anti-racism work, and a truthful telling of U.S. history that includes the stories of BIPOC people, as ‘CRT’ or Critical Race Theory. Critical Race Theory is a misnomer designed to build outrage against history and literature that is not whitewashed.
“The recent chilling dismantling and watering down of Black Studies and Women’s Studies classes by the College Board are all designed to destroy the success of anti-oppression movements, and limit the gains made in discussing anti-racist and anti-oppression ideas.
“There are things that can be done to fight against this, but we all need to make our voices heard to stop an agenda designed to erase history and mystify how we became an unequal nation.”
~Simone Marrion, Solid Ground’s Volunteer Coordinator & Anti-Racism Initiative Steering Committee member
Learn more about Solid Ground’s Anti-Racism Initiative on our Race & Social Justice impact webpage.
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