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Black Women and Education

Introduction Dr. Mae Jemison was the first African-American female astronaut to travel in space. Patricia Roberts Harris was the first African American female Ambassador of the United States. Miss Vanessa Williams was the first African American Miss America and the first African American White House Social Secretary was Desiree Rogers. There have been many nationally recognized accomplishments by African American women.

Additionally, there have also been many unknown “paving the way” accomplishments by African American women such as Linda Adams Hoyle, the first African American woman to graduate from Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech) in 1968. Also, Jackie Blackwell, Linda Turner, and Marguerite Scott were three of the First African American women to graduate from Virginia Tech, in 1970, after Linda Hoyle.

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In those decades it was difficult going to school for women in general, but how were the African American women capable of actually graduating from college? Was it the bond that they shared as black women that was unknowingly motivating each other? Literary Review: Family and Friends a Strong Foundation “The education of Black women has always been considered an important investment in the future” (Gregory 1995). Gregory (1995) is not the only author who believes this but in fact Coker (2003) and Collier-Thomas (1982) agree with her entirely.

Black women are the backbone of the family as Collier-Thomas (1995) and Coker (2003) points and it only makes sense that they would want to get educated so that they can continue to influence black children is a distinct point that Collier-Thomas (1995) makes in her article. Gregory (1995) says, “Black teachers often became the only means to establish schools and educational associations in the community, and teach Black youth and adults. Gregory (1995) further discusses the importance of Black women as educator in this chapter, not only academically but also socially and communally. However, Coker (2003) would argue that Black women not only get educated so that they can educate others, but also to be an example in their households. “Women head 50% of all African American households” (Coker 1995) and being educated as black woman who is the head of household has become a responsibility over the years.

Coker (1995) further discusses the roles of African American women in politics and that they make a statement by being educated and playing a political role in the community. There have been stereotypes and actions of discrimination against African American for decades, in spite of these exploit “By 1920, there were over 100 black institutes of higher learning to which women were admitted (Collier-Thomas 1982). African American females have had to deal with the two things that count against them when entering a field of study is something that all the authors appear to agree with.

Coker (2003), Collier-Thomas (1982) and Gregory (1995) all seem to agree that the number of Black women in higher education will only increase and in this paper, I will state that there are different reasons for why African American women make it all the way to graduation and even higher education than a college degree. Methodology: In their own words Linda Hoyle, Jackie Blackwell, Linda Turner, and Marguerite Scott were brought back to Virginia Tech at different points in their lives and interviewed by Tamara Kennelly.

Kennelly’s questioned ranged from the women’s lives before attending the Institute to their experiences during their time there and how they felt. All the questions were not the same for all the women but they were essentially asking the same things. While reading these transcripts I got a sense of unification among these women while still maintaining their individuality. I got a good sense of how each of these women was and how set they were on their goals. It felt like I was reading my own response to some of these questions, although I did not grow up during this time.

Kennelly’s purpose, of these interviews, was to get a sense of life for African American women during a time when those were both negatives working against them. What their backgrounds were like that led them to choosing to go to Virginia Tech and what their experiences were. Each of these women appeared to get along, based on the transcripts, although they obviously had polar views about socializing and their reactions to things that stirred up some kind of emotion in them. In spite of their different personalities, they all seemed to go through their college experiences together.

The purpose of my research has nothing to do with historical backgrounds or these ladies experiences, but what was it that caused them to stay in college until they got their degrees. It serves to discover the motivational forces behind these women’s achievements as the first black women on the Virginia Tech campus. This paper is based solely on the experiences of these women, henceforth; I can only offer my analysis explicitly to the experiences stated in these women’s transcripts and not a generalized account of all African American women.

Analysis Linda Hoyle did not seem to be bothered by any of the racial stigmas on the campus she had only protested once during her time at Virginia Tech. Scott was a part of a self-help group and Blackwell was a part of a biology pre-med club of which she was the only African America. However, these women stayed motivated. In spite of being the only African American women in each of their class and facing discrimination on a daily basis these women never backed down from their goals and aspiration of having a degree in their fields of specification.

One may say that in their process of standing out they found comfort in each other while blending in. Each of these women had the support of their families and their communities as both Gregory (1995) and Coker (2003) would agree. Hoyle says, “I think we stayed together as best as I can remember, for the most part, we were there together. ” Hoyle may not have noticed but staying together and seeing each other was another community they had amongst themselves that probably kept them strong and motivated. Having a connection with a community helped to increase their sense of identity and personal political activism. ” (Coker 2003) All these women were well aware of the realties of racism and sexism that was around them. Hoyle was often referred to as a man in one of her statistics classes because only men majored in statistics. All four women experienced racism in some way whether it was the playing of the “Dixie” song during the homecoming day, or being asked their purpose when present at certain functions.

The one thing these women always knew was that they had each other, and they supported each other even if they were not cognisant of that support or they just didn’t mention it in their interview. “An essential aspect in the Black community which has richly benefited Black women and their families are what McAdoo (1980) refers to as extended family support networks,” (Gregory 1995). The extended family which is not only the women in this group but also the church “provide emotional support, economic supplements, and most important, to protect the families integrity from assault by external forces,” (Gregory 1995).

These women attended different social events together. If one of them went alone, the people who consider them outsiders would emotionally wound them, but as long as they were together they were that foundation that each other needed to remind one another of the inner strength they all had. The women also went to church where they met a woman and visited her at her home on a regular basis. “One of the greatest sources of strength and what is often at the centre of the black community is the Black church.

Its role is to provide spiritual, moral, emotional, social, political, and economic support” (Gregory 1995). Having a larger community outside of the one they formed within themselves must have been a large motivator for these women. Gregory (1995) discusses the importance of women in the church and the importance of religion in the Black community. Church was a place where they could be uplifted and be around people who believed in them outside of their families.

Although each of these women had the loving support of their parents, sometimes that is not enough. Sometimes you need an even larger community that encourages you in your ambitions and church was the place where these women felt fulfilled. Furthermore, some of these women were older sisters and they would all become wives and mothers one day and as Coker (2003) states “one person’s joy and accomplishments are experienced happily by other members of the family. ” These women are all voices of inspiration to their siblings and future children.

Hoyle talks about her son wanting to go to Virginia Tech because he was proud of his mother being the first black woman to graduate from their. Scott shares with Kennelly that she can only tell her daughter of her experiences and how she handled different situations, but she wants her to find her voice and try things differently. “Bring a role a model and making connections with their children by example” (Coker 2003) were probably a part of these women’s motivations.

Women, not only African American women, are looked to for guidance in the family, and when she can be a positive light in her children’s and husband life it means the world to her, especially to African American women who have to go through twice as much to achieve their goals. Conclusion Every African American woman is different, they are not all religious and they, don’t all want children, but one thing I have learned from being an African American women myself, is that we want the support from friends and our extended families, they are our biggest motivators.

My mother went back to college when I was fifteen yeas old because she wanted to make a better life for both us. She wanted me to be proud of her ask her for help when I needed it. There were nights when she felt she didn’t want to continue but I was her biggest motivator. As an African American college student, I have been discouraged by professors and questioned about my capability of success, but female friends not only on this campus, but also on campuses across the nation have been firm hands of support. My Baptist church has been a great source of support and my family has been a source of support.

Their belief in me has kept me motivated to prove men wrong about what they believe my capabilities are. These four women: Linda Adams Hoyle, Jackie Blackwell, Linda Turner, and Marguerite Scott had the same things I have and that is why they were capable of making it not only with Bachelor Degrees, but with Master’s and Doctorate as well. They are source of motivation for me. They were the first African American women to graduate from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and paved the way for other African American women after them.

It makes me think of the first African American women to graduate from the Rochester Institute of Technology and how I would not want to disappoint them. Bibliography Collier-Thomas, Bettye Summer, 1982 The Impact of Black Women in Education: A Historical Overview. The Journal of Negro Education 51(3): 173-180. Gregory, Sheila 1995 In the Beginning. In Black women in the academy: the secrets to success and achievements. Pages 3-9. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. Coker, Angela

May 2003 African American Female Adult Learners: Motivations, Challenges, and Coping Strategies. Journal of Black Studies 33(5): 654-674. Appendix First Black Woman to Graduate from Virginia Tech: Linda Adams Hoyle, Class of 1968. November 3, 2000. Transcript: 3 pages. University Archives of Virginia Tech, http://spec. lib. vt. edu/archives/blackhistory/oralhistory/hoyle/. One of the First Six Black Women Students at Virginia Tech: Jackie Butler Blackwell, Class of 1970. April 29, 1995. Transcript: 3 pages. University Archives of Virginia Tech, http://spec. ib. vt. edu/archives/blackwomen/butlerhp. htm. One of the First Six Black Women Students at Virginia Tech: Linda Edmonds Turner, Class of 1970. March 2, 1996. Transcript: 3 pages. University Archives of Virginia Tech, http://spec. lib. vt. edu/archives/blackwomen/edmondhp. htm. One of the First Six Black Women Students at Virginia Tech: Marguerite Laurette Harper Scott, Class of 1970. March 2, 1996. Transcript: 3 pages. University Archives of Virginia Tech, http://spec. lib. vt. edu/archives/blackwomen/scotthp. htm.


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