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Honoring the Legacies and Historical Impact of African American Survivors

February is Black History Month and Brighter Tomorrows will be honoring African American survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault that refused to be silenced. Each Friday this month, the Education Department will highlight a survivor that helped pave the way toward a Brighter Tomorrow.

Vision

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The massacre that occurred in May of 1866 in Memphis, Tennessee is one of many such atrocities that darken American history. In 1866, there were massacre in New Orleans and somehwere else, all of which were the catalyst for radical reconstruction that occured post-civil war. 
The Memphis massacre has the distinction of also being the catalyst for the violence against women movement because it was the bravery of six African American women whose raised voices shook the Nation and broke the silence surrounding sexual violence against women. 

It is unimaginable now, to think of the incredible courage these women had to speak out and refused to be silenced about the sexual atrocities they suffered at the hands of white men, in front of a group of white men who held such power and looked down upon them with such disdain, in a time of such racial tension and antagonism. Their names may be lost to history but their legacy lives on as the very first women to bright light to not only violence against women, but the intersectionality of racism and sexism. 

Lucy Smith

Lucy Tibbs

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Elvira Walker

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Rebecca Ann Bloom

Frances

T1866 when Frances Thompson, a formerly enslaved, disabled, Black trans woman, became a trailblazer in the fight to end sexual violence against women.hey also reportedly raped at least five women, including Thompson herself. One night, she and Lucy Smith, a 16-year-old girl in her care, were home in bed when seven white rioters broke into their dwelling. Two of the men wore uniforms with stars, which signified they were police officers. Thompson and Smith were targeted because they were believed to be affiliated with union soldiers. The men demanded that they get up and prepare a meal for them. The ladies complied, making the intruders biscuits, eggs, ham, and coffee. After they took in their fill, the terrorists expressed the desire to have sex with Thompson and Smith. When they refused their advances, the men brutally beat and raped them both before robbing them of their valuables.
 

In 1876, a decade after her testimony, rumors that she was assigned male at birth began circulating throughout the South. She was brought into custody and examined by four physicians, who declared her anatomically male. Conservative media used the story to discredit her testimony and accusations of rape, and even went so far as to say the Memphis Massacre was a political ruse. They dubbed Thompson a liar, used every racially inflammatory epithet to defame and dehumanize her, and accused her of being an agent of reconstruction propaganda.

She was also fined a $50 penalty, more than $800 today, for being a “cross-dressing man in women’s clothing,” because trans identity was billed as high fraud. Unable to pay the fine, and with no support from those who benefitted from her bold advocacy, she was sentenced to a men’s chain gang. Despite the fact she was on crutches and had been previously diagnosed with cancer of the foot, Thompson endured so much abuse that she had to be transferred to a medical facility, where she died of dysentery months later. Frances Thompson was a pioneer and a hero, and we should all know her name.

OUR TEAM

DELIVERED TO YOUR DOOR

" While one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated."

- Maya Angelou

Memoirist

Civil Rights Activist

American Poet

  • Marguerite Annie Johnson, who the world knows as Maya Angelou, was born in St. Louis, Missouri on April 4, 1928.

  • When she was 8 years old, she was sexually abused by her mother's boyfriend. Following that, Maya Angelou became mute for almost 5 years.

  • When Maya was 16, she became the first Black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco, later receiving a lifetime achievement award from the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials.

  • It was while she danced and sang calypso music at the nightclub The Purple Onion when she changed her named to "Maya Angelou".

  • Maya Angelou held some jobs in the sex trade, as a prostitute and madam for lesbians.

Survivor

Honors & Awards

  • A Pulitzer Prize Nomination

  • A Tony Award Nomination

  • Awarded Three Grammys

  • Awarded the Spingarn Medal in 1994

  • The National Medal of Arts in 2000

  • The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011

  • More than 50 honorary degrees

  • Served on two presidential committees

  • First Black woman to be depicted on a quarter in the US Mint's American Women Quarters series in 2022

MY STORY