Rare Photos Show Lesser-Known Black Women Activists Of The 19th Century

They are hidden figures no more.

When discussing black women’s history, activists like Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks are often quick to come to mind for many.

Yet while their resilience and advocacy is noteworthy, they’re certainly not the only famous black activists we should know.

Now, a recently digitized collection of rare photos at the Library of Congress shows similarly socially active but lesser-known black women throughout the 19th century. The images, which are mostly striking black-and-white portraits, once belonged to William Henry Richards, a professor who taught at Howard University Law School for nearly four decades before his death in 1951. Richards was “active in several organizations that promoted civil rights and civil liberties for African Americans at the end of the nineteenth century,” Beverly Brannan, the curator of Photography, Prints & Photographs Division at the Library of Congress wrote in a post published last week.

The library acquired the collection in 2013 and recently digitized the images to bring visibility to more obscure black women who were active in civil rights, education and journalism in the decades following the Civil War. They include pictures of women like writer Hallie Quinn Brown, who helped to launch the Colored Women’s League of Washington, DC and educator Josephine A. Silone Yates, who was trained in chemistry and was one of the first black teachers at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Below you’ll find the entire collection of images.

Maria “Molly” Baldwin (1856-1922) was an educator and civic leader.
Elizabeth Carter Brooks, an educator and activist, is seen with singer and activist Emma Azelia Smith Hackley (wearing glasses). Photos dated from 1885.
Hallie Quinn Brown (1850-1949) was an educator and activist. She is the founder of the Colored Woman's League of Washington, D.C., which later became the National Association of Colored Women in 1894.
Anna J. Cooper (1858-1964) was an educator, activist and prominent scholar. She was only the fourth black woman to earn a doctoral degree and wrote the Voice from the South: By A Woman from the South in 1892, which heavily touched on race and black feminism.
Amanda V. Gray (1869-1957) was an activist, educator and pharmacist. Gray, who received her pharmaceutical graduate degree from Howard University in 1903, operated a pharmacy in Washington D.C.'s black neighborhood. She was heavily active in the community's ongoing social, political and cultural issues.
Lillian Parker Thomas (born 1857) was a journalist and correspondent editor for the Freeman, which is recognized as the first illustrated black newspaper. She has been described in history books as "the mantle of mental achievement" and her role was one held by no other woman on staff at the publication.
Clarissa M. Thompson (born 1856) was an educator, novelist, poet and teacher. She often spoke out about temperance, gender inequality and racism.
Laura A. Moore Westbrook (born 1859) was an educator and fearless advocate for black people in the South. She worked in the public school system for more than two decades in both Tennessee and Texas.
Fannie Barrier Williams (1855-1944) was an educator, orator and political activist who heavily advocated on behalf of black women in the South. She was involved in the creation of both the National Association of Colored Women and the National Association of the Advancement Of Colored People (NAACP).
Josephine Silone Yates (1852-1912) was educator and activist who pushed for social change. She was a key organizer of the Kansas City Women’s League and served as the organization's first president in 1893 before serving four years as the president of the National Association of Colored Women.
Shirley Chisholm (1924–2005)

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