Ebone Bell Highlights Black Women’s History


Stormi Nuckoles

Ebone Bell discussing Mary McLeod Bethune during her lecture at Bridgewater College on March 8. Bethune was the President of the National Association for Colored Women and an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Stormi Nuckoles, Staff Writer

Bridgewater, Va.- On Tuesday, March 8, Ebone Bell came to Bridgewater College to give a lecture for Women’s History Month. The event was originally scheduled for February to align with Black History Month.  

Bell told the stories of select Black women who lived their values and changed history as a result. She said that her intention was that knowledge may be spread to advocate for a better future.

Bell is an activist focused on the LGBTQIA+, women’s rights and Black pride. She owns Tagg Magazine – a magazine focused on queer news and stories, with the intent of providing resources for the LGBTQIA+ community and allowing a safe space for women specifically within that community. 

“Knowing our history allows us to do better and to learn from our mistakes,” said Bell. “It’s why right now we have well intentioned individuals who want to see real change and they want to help create change. But a lot of these individuals are trying to change people instead of changing the foundation and understanding the history that got us here.”

Bell highlighted three significant women in Black history. 

Sarah Breedlove, later known as Madam C.J. Walker was the first Black woman to create beauty and hair products for Black women. Breedlove personally suffered from scalp issues and severe hair loss. She decided that if she could not find any product to help her hair type, then she would make her own. After extensive research, Breedlove created a multimillion dollar product line. 

Mary McLeod Bethune fought for the right for African Americans to have an education. In 1904, Bethune founded a private school for Black girls in Daytona Beach, Florida, which became Bethune-Cookman University. She was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the National Youth Administration and went on to establish the Federal Council on Colored Affairs.

Martha P. Johnson was a transgender women in New York City living in an era that was openly hostile to queer people, especially transgender people. In 1969, Johnson is believed to have instigated the stand against the NY police who were harassing the customers at the Stonewall Inn. Among her many activist achievements, she is credited to having helped launch Pride month, which is celebrated annually in June. 

“I feel as though society hasn’t learned from their mistakes,” said junior Ailsa Hyler. “Black women and men are still suffering and having to deal with the same prejudices of the past. Just maybe in a different way than before. Times have changed but our actions haven’t. When will we learn to treat each other equally?”

Bell also mentioned Katherine Johnson, a NASA mathematician who made space exploration possible; Viola Fletcher, the oldest living survivor of the Tulsa Massacre; Marie Van Brittan Brown, the inventor of the first home security system, and the well known poet Maya Angelou.

Bell concluded her lecture by giving the audience advice about the importance of being an ally and starting the conversation of justice. 

“Allies, this is your time to start sharing. This is the time to talk. Start within your inner circle if you do nothing else and start sharing these stories,” said Bell.