This is Unbound, the newsletter of The Emancipator. In each issue, I examine some of the most urgent conversations on racial justice infused with context, news, and perspective. My goal is to bring fresh voices, new research, and bold ideas from The Emancipator’s editors, columnists, and contributors, straight to your inbox.

 Did someone forward you this newsletter?
Sign up here

Eyes wide open: America must protect and serve all women, not just some

Four African American women seated on steps of a building at Atlanta University, Georgia.
(photographed by Thomas E. Askew; from “Negro life in Georgia, U.S.A.,” compiled and prepared by W.E.B. Du Bois, v. 4, no. 362.; 1899 or 1900

“Let our girls possess what amiable qualities of soul they may; let their characters be fair and spotless as innocence itself; let their natural taste and ingenuity be what they may; it is impossible for scarce an individual of them to rise above the condition of servants.”
— Maria Stewart, 1832 at Franklin Hall in Boston.

Stewart’s words, spoken in one of her historic abolitionist lectures nearly two centuries ago, reflect the frustration many Black women still recognize today. Regardless of our work, our talent, our creativity, and our community-building, we know the feeling of being discounted, discredited, disbelieved. We’re rendered invisible from the view of our peers, of power holders, and of the public — even when we make it all the way to the White House. We know misogynoir when we see it, and whew ... do we see it. 

And it remains the case, as it was when abolitionist George Bourne chose the following engraving for his 1837 work, “Slavery Illustrated in Its Effects Upon Women,” that Black women are particularly vulnerable to societal abuse.

Seal of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society

This has been front of mind for me these past couple of weeks. I felt it in the urgent treatment by law enforcement and media coverage of the tragic death of Florida woman Gabby Petito, who was white, juxtaposed with the scores of Black and Brown women in America who vanish with little attention. Globe Opinion columnist Renée Graham put a fine point on it: 

“Stories about white women in peril serve the same purpose today as they have historically — to fuel white fears about rampant lawlessness that are designed to defy calls for gun reform and heighten policing of Black and Brown men rather than keep women safe,” Graham wrote.

I saw it this week when Black women experienced a taste of justice with the conviction of serial child sex trafficker R. Kelly, who preyed on Black girls and boys for decades. But it was served with a side of that familiar feeling of justice being delayed too long. Black women, the witnesses who gave gut-wrenching testimony of Kelly’s torture, were finally believed. 

It took too long.

Even as I look ahead to the U.S. Supreme Court term that begins next week, I see how Black women are vulnerable to the court’s actions. A ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade would deny reproductive justice to millions of Black women, particularly those who are poorer and who live in the South, where most of the recent spate of restrictive abortion laws have been passed. I lay out just why the stakes are so high — and what reproductive justice looks like — in my Globe Opinion column this week.

And if the justices tie the hands of states, including Massachusetts, by preventing them from enacting sensible gun regulations, no group would be imperiled more than Black transgender women, already abused and killed at an alarmingly disproportionate rate, usually by firearms.

Omar Gonzales-Pagan of Lambda Legal, a group that urged the court to uphold state regulations on carrying firearms outside of the home, said the focus on mass shootings is misplaced. Most gun violence is far more personal, particularly when motivated by hate.

“We are talking about individual acts of violence where hate has been armed with a gun,” Gonzales-Pagan told me. “We are talking about the continuous epidemic of violence against trans people of color, particularly trans Black women.”

As hard as Black women work to protect others, to protect democracy, I keep asking myself: Who protects us?

Nine African American women posed, standing, full length, with educator Nannie Burroughs holding a banner reading "Banner State Woman's National Baptist Convention" between 1905 and 1915.
(Retrieved from the Library of Congress)
Globe Staff

Culture in context

Michelle Browder (left) is the artist who created the “Mothers of Gynecology” commemorative statues. (Photos courtesy of the artist)

In Montgomery, a towering new monument honors the “Mothers of Gynecology:” Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey, three of 11 enslaved Black women who were the unwilling subjects of medical experimentation by 19th-century physician J. Marion Sims. 

While Sims is referred to as the father of modern gynecology as the result of these experiments, artist and activist Michelle Browder, wanted to change the narrative. So, she honored these women by designing and welding the commemorative metal sculptures from items that include surgical and gynecological instruments.
“No one talks about these women and their sacrifices and the experimentations that they suffered,” Browder told “If you’re going to tell the truth about this history, we need to tell it all.” 

Learn more about the monument and Browder’s work here.

What Im reading, watching, and hearing

Black News Hour,” newly launched and run by my Black colleagues on the Boston Globe’s news side, is an exciting and much-needed space to deeply explore issues facing Boston’s Black citizens and for the community to connect with us. Find it here.

Distanced,” an amazing project by documentary photographer and filmmaker Bethany Mollenkof, chronicles the impact of COVID-19 on residents of rural Black communities in the South with words, images, and videos, and will change how you see this pandemic. Find it here, in our sister publication, STAT.

Like many Black women, particularly those of Generation X, Mary J. Blige’s “My Life” was the soundtrack of their formative adult years. The Amazon Prime documentary “Mary J. Blige’s My Life,” about the creation of that album with performances by Blige, is the salve that soothes me these days. See the trailer here.

Until next time,

Kimberly Atkins Stohr
Senior opinion writer and columnist, The Boston Globe

The Emancipator is a collaboration between Boston University and The Boston Globe that is provided without a paywall. 

How can you help?
Support The Emancipator by making a donation.

Your contribution will help to reframe the national conversation on racial justice and build a bold new platform for opinion commentary and ideas journalism. 

Copyright © 2021 The Emancipator, All rights reserved.

The Emancipator
1 Exchange Pl
Boston, MA 02109-2803

Add us to your address book

Learn more about The Emancipator
Sign up for newsletters and alerts from The Boston Globe

View in Browser | Update Your Preferences | Unsubscribe 
Manage Your Account | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | Help Center | Advertise
Boston University's Center for Antiracist Research and The Boston Globe's Opinion team are collaborating to resurrect and reimagine The Emancipator, the first abolitionist newspaper in the United States, founded more than 200 years ago. The Emancipator is a collaboration between Boston University and
The Boston Globe that is provided without a paywall.