The United States was built on the backs of African Americans, Mexican Americans and Asian Americans. That is why I love Black History Month. It tells the stories I never got to hear in school. It reminds me that my people are not shiftless and lazy. They have great minds and hearts contributing to society.
It reminds me that you can come from nothing and add something significant to life. In my Queens project, the women I chose made a contribution to society that changed the fabric of it. Ordinary women did extraordinary things.
For this project, I chose women from all walks of life. I will share some of the photos I have taken, thus far. These are my Queens of Freedom.
Bessie Smith, the Empress of the Blues
Betsy Ross, mother of the American Flag
Madam CJ Walker, first African American Millionaire
Delores Hueta, Labor Leader and civil rights worker
Rosa Parks, civil rights activist or the mother of the freedom movement
Sacagawea, lead Lewis and Clark across North America
Shirley Chisholm, first African American woman elected to Congress
I love that there are months to celebrate African American History and Women’s History. It is the opportunity to tell the stories of people like you and me who accomplished things that moved us further along on life’s journey.
My current photo project is inspired by a group of women who changed life for the people around them. These women taught us about freedom, self worth and beauty. They walked us to freedom through dark woods in the dead of night. They built fortunes washing clothes and combing hair. They leave a legacy that the impossible can be done.
I call them Queens because these women led when it wasn’t easy. Anyone can do it when it is easy, but these women did it when there was nothing in it for them. When all of the odds where against them. They made a difference.
Because of women like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, Betsy Ross we are free. We are not restricted by someone who owns us. Because of women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton we can own property and manage our own lives. We can be lawyers, architects or millionaires. We can be what God created us to be and not limited by what man thinks we should be.
Bessie Smith was raised during a difficult time in our country’s history in 1892. She lived in the segregated South. Her parents died when she was young, so she and her brother would dance and sing on the streets of Chattanooga, Tennessee to earn money. In 1912 she started her career as a dancer traveling with a troupe. She would later get a job as a singer, which would lead to better paying jobs.
By the 1920s and 1930s, Smith was known as the Empress of the Blues. She would headline shows and traveled around in her own custom made rail car. What was more important is she gave voice to a style of music that got its roots in America. Bessie Smith understood the blues, it was her life. She poured everything she had into it until it consumed her.
If we don’t tell these stories who will tell them? Young girls need to know you can climb out of hard times if you have perseverance and a dream.
The Queens of Freedom is a photography project that will tell the story of 17 women who did extraordinary things in the fight for freedom. If you are interested in being a model for the Queens of Freedom project please email me your headshot. If you have an idea which of the 17 Queens you would like to portray, tell me that and why.
My email address is email@example.com.
If you need to send it snail mail: PO Box 11082 Fort Worth, Texas 76110.
I want to say Thank you for supporting the Queens project to Bettye Merritt Wortham. You will help me tell the stories of women like Shirley Chisholm who ran for Congress in 1968 with the slogan Unbought and unbossed. She was the first African American woman elected to Congress. She represented New York’s 12th congressional district.
I want to say Thank you for supporting the Queens project to David Cegelski. You will help me tell the stories of women like Betsy Ross. She triumphed over tragedy after losing two husbands to the Revolutionary War. She continued to run the upholstery business she started with her first husband John Ross, raise her family and support the war. She is also credited with sewing the American Flag.
I want to say Thank you for supporting the Queens project to Ellen Renfro-Tabor. You will help me tell the stories of women like Bessie Smith who became a headliner touring in her own railroad car. She made one movie, St Louis Blues.
I want to say Thank You for supporting the Queens project to Deidra Hightower. You will help me tell stories of women like Sacagawea. She was kidnapped as a child by another tribe and later married Toussaint Charbonneau, a Quebecois trapper. She traveled thousands of miles from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean on expeditions with Lewis and Clark.
I want to say Thank you for supporting the Queens project to Keisha Robinson. You will help me tell stories of women like Sojourner Truth who was born Isabella “Bell” Baumfree. She delivered the speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” at the Ohio women’s Right Convention in 1851.
I want to say Thank You for supporting the Queens project to Brenda Derrick. She will help me tell stories of women like Charlotte E Ray. She was born in 1850 and was the first African American attorney in the United States. She was the first woman to practice before the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia.
I want to say Thank You for supporting the Queens project to Bridgette Brown help me tell stories of women like Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, known as the “mother of the freedom movement” was a civil rights activist. She was part of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. She was a secretary for the Montgomery Chapter of the NAACP and later received a Presidential Medal of Freedom.