Women’s History Month 2023 – Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories
TLSC Radio recognizes Women’s History Month. This year the theme is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” Our society has benefited from so many women and their stories from poets, playwrights, authors, journalists, bloggers, podcasters and so many more. This year, TLSC Radio recognizes the talents and contributions of four very phenomenal women– Joan Cooper aka J. California Cooper, Zora Neal Hurston, Ida B. Wells, and Chloe Anthony Wofford Morrison aka Toni Morrison. Read their stories and join us in celebrating these phenomenal women.
Content and research provided by Telfia Y. Muckeroy
Joan Cooper (November 10, 1931 in Berkeley, California – September 20, 2014 in Seattle, Washington), known by her pen name, J. California Cooper, was an American playwright and author. She wrote 17 plays and was named Black Playwright of the Year in 1978 for her play Strangers. Her work was encouraged by the author and activist Alice Walker, who has said of Cooper: In its strong folk flavor, Cooper’s work reminds us of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Like theirs, her style is deceptively simple and direct and the veil of tears in which her characters reside is never so deep that a rich chuckle at a foolish person’s foolishness cannot be heard.
It was at the encouragement of Walker that Cooper turned from her claim to fame in the theater and started writing short stories. Her first collection A Piece of Mine was published in 1984 by Wild Trees Press, the publishing company founded by Walker. Two other story collections followed, before the release of her first novel, Family, in 1991. Cooper wrote Funny Valentines, which later was turned into a 1999 TV movie starring Alfre Woodard and Loretta Devine. Awards Cooper won include the American Book Award (for her 1986 short-story collection Homemade Love), a James Baldwin Writing Award and a Literary Lion Award from the American Library Association. She died in Seattle, Washington, in 2014 at the age of 82. click here to learn more about her bibliography on Wikipedia.
Zora Neal Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891- January 28, 1960) was an American author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. She portrayed racial struggles in the early- 1900s American South and published research on hoodoo.The most popular of her four novels is Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937. She also wrote more than 50 short stories, plays, and essays. She also wrote fiction about contemporary issues in the Black community and became a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance. Her short satires, drawing from the African-American experience and racial division, were published in anthologies such as The New Negro and Fire!! After moving back to Florida, Hurston wrote and published her literary anthology on African-American folklore in North Florida, Mules and Men (1935), and her first three novels: Jonah’s Gourd Vine (1934); Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937); and Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939). Also published during this time was Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica (1938), documenting her research on rituals in Jamaica and Haiti.
Hurston traveled extensively in the Caribbean and the American South and immersed herself in local cultural practices to conduct her anthropological research. Based on her work in the South, sponsored from 1928 to 1932 by Charlotte Osgood Mason, a wealthy philanthropist, Hurston wrote Mules and Men in 1935. She was researching lumber camps in north Florida and commented on the practice of white men in power taking black women as concubines, including having them bear children. This practice later was referred to as “paramour rights”, based on the men’s power under racial segregation and related to practices during slavery times. The book also includes much folklore. Hurston drew from this material as well in the fictional treatment she developed for her novels such as Jonah’s Gourd Vine (1934). click here to learn more about her bibliography on Wikipedia.
Ida B. Wells
Ida B. Wells (full name: Ida Bell Wells-Barnett) (July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931) was an American investigative journalist, educator, and early leader in the civil rights movement. She was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Wells dedicated her lifetime to combating prejudice and violence, the fight for African-American equality, especially that of women, and became arguably the most famous Black woman in the United States of her time. Born into slavery in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Wells was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation during the American Civil War. At the age of 14, she lost both her parents and her infant brother in the 1878 yellow fever epidemic. She went to work and kept the rest of the family together with the help of her grandmother. Later, moving with some of her siblings to Memphis, Tennessee, Wells found better pay as a teacher. Soon, Wells co-owned and wrote for the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight newspaper. Her reporting covered incidents of racial segregation and inequality.
Wells was outspoken regarding her beliefs as a Black female activist and faced regular public disapproval, sometimes including from other leaders within the civil rights movement and the women’s suffrage movement. She was active in women’s rights and the women’s suffrage movement, establishing several notable women’s organizations. A skilled and persuasive speaker, Wells traveled nationally and internationally on lecture tours. Wells died of kidney disease on March 25, 1931, in Chicago, and in 2020 was posthumously honored with a Pulitzer Prize special citation “for her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching. click here to learn more about her bibliography on Wikipedia.
Chloe Anthony Wofford Morrison (born Chloe Ardelia Wofford; February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019), known as Toni Morrison, was an American novelist. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. The critically acclaimed Song of Solomon (1977) brought her national attention and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1988, Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved (1987); she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. Born and raised in Lorain, Ohio, Morrison graduated from Howard University in 1953 with a B.A. in English. She earned a master’s degree in American Literature from Cornell University in 1955. In 1957 she returned to Howard University, was married, and had two children before divorcing in 1964. Morrison became the first black female editor in fiction at Random House in New York City in the late 1960s. She developed her own reputation as an author in the 1970s and ’80s. Her work Beloved was made into a film in 1998. Morrison’s works are praised for addressing the harsh consequences of racism in the United States and the Black American experience.
The National Endowment for the Humanities selected Morrison for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government’s highest honor for achievement in the humanities, in 1996. She was honored with the National Book Foundation’s Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters the same year. President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on May 29, 2012. She received the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction in 2016. Morrison was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2020. click here to learn more about her bibliography on Wikipedia.