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What does it feel like to be a black woman in America today? When you’re thinking about being a black woman, chances are you’re probably thinking about being an American slavery abolitionist or some sort of civil rights hero. Or perhaps your idea of the great American woman is Harriet Tubman. If those aren’t your inspiration points, what is? Black women have been around for as long as men, and we have been performing important and critical roles in American history for as long as white men have been able to do so. There are many different facets of being a black woman in America today, but three things seem to stand out: 1) Being black is still very much a part of this country, and 2) Being black has changed over time, with new challenges and different types of opportunities emerging. Let’s take a look at how it all started for Black women in America.

## In the early 1900s, being black was still a very fringe idea.

Even in America’s early 20th century, people didn’t typically think of black people as having a separate but equal place in society. African Americans, like other groups in this country, were perceived as sub-human — and as such, were often treated as such by other groups. Blacks were often thought of as criminals and criminals’ goods, as well — which can lead to stereotypes that are often harmful to Black people. As a result, being black in the U.S. was still very much an idea, although it had been taken to a more extreme level in the 20th century. In fact, it was only in the early 1900s that black people began to be elevated to the status of a respected race — as part of the so-called civil rights movement. In order to receive this respect, black people had to wear headbands and wear traditional clothing, attend social events with black friends and wear boots and gloves when working outside.

In the early 1900s, African Americans started to get jobs as professionals and as citizens.

On one hand, it’s amazing that in a time when people didn’t typically think of Black people as labor or professional Blacks, that is, when people didn’t know that someone could be a physician and a broker in banking, or a prominent lawyer and a tax attorney, or a flight attendant and a surgeon — those people became prominent and powerful figures in the American community. On the other hand, it’s also amazing that in such a short time, Black people have become such household names — publishers have reissued books about Harriet Tubman, for example, for generations to come.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Black women gradually took part in more and more roles in society.

It is easy to forget today, after all — but remember, this was in the middle of the century, and people were still living in caves and shacks. In fact, building houses was usually done in a day — and it usually involved labor, sweat and a bit of luck. In fact, there were few roles that were more challenging and more exciting for Black women than being a mother. As a Black woman, you were expected to be caring, nurturing and active in your child’s life — and you did so during times of hardship and discrimination. Even today, when being a mother is relatively easy, it’s difficult for Black women to find jobs that pay a living wage or treat their children equally — and they are working as hard as they can to change that. Black motherhood is still very much a part of Black women’s lives, and it’s an important part of Black womanhood in many ways.

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