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Black women is both a multi-faceted cultural identity and a powerful social construct with different meanings in different places. For some, it is those women born on the African continent; for others it includes the descendants of slaves brought from Africa to the Americas. For others, it includes women of the African diaspora or Aboriginal women in Australia. Black women have sometimes been seen in stereotypical ways, resulting in increased risk for them. But they have also been important leaders throughout human history.
Increased risk for health problems in the USA
Black women in the United States are statistically at increased risk of death, poor health, poverty and incarceration.
According to the CDC (CDC), black women die at four times the rate of white women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the year immediately following childbirth. While poor black women are at greater risk, American black women are at greater risk than white women regardless of class. These factors are rooted in intersectional oppression.
History in the United States
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Black female slaves were oppressed and abused by white men and their white slave owners.
Women within black popular culture in the United States
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Notable black women in US popular culture include:
- Harriet Tubman: Born in the early 19th century in the former slave state of Maryland, Tubman is widely regarded for helping many African-American slaves to escape slavery via the Underground Railroad. According to PBS, Tubman risked her own life "19 times by 1860" in order to save other slaves and return them to the North during the American Civil War. Prior to being married, Tubman's name was Araminta Ross and she was also a nurse, cook and spy for the Northern Army during the Civil War.
- Ella Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald, an American Jazz singer born in 1917, was given the title of "The First Lady of Song." Fitzgerald is also known as the Queen of Jazz and won 13 Grammys for her vocal performances over the course of her life. In the music community, Fitzgerald is known for her four octave vocal range and for being a scat-singer. Additionally, Fitzgerald was capable of performing music in a multitude of genres, including swing and bop. Like many black artists at the time, Fitzgerald performed at the Apollo Theater in New York City
- Billie Holiday: Similar to Fitzgerald, Holiday, born as Eleanora Fagan, remains an important figure within the history of jazz music in America. Influenced by Louis Armstrong, Holiday's vocal range was limited yet she is known for her thin, light voice that has a punch to it. Holiday is featured on the track "A Sailboat in the Moonlight" which was a number one hit when it was released and remains popular today,.
Some of the most important artistic and political leaders in history have been black women. For instance, Queen Qalhata and Candace of Meroe are important, early African queens. In the United States, Toni Morrison was the first black woman Nobel laureate. Shirley Chisholm was an important Democratic candidate for U.S. President in the 1970s. In Africa, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf served as President of Liberia for 12 years.
- "Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System | Pregnancy | Reproductive Health | CDC". www.cdc.gov. Retrieved 2016-12-28.
- "Harriet Tubman Facts and Quotes | Black History | PBS". Harriet Tubman Facts and Quotes | Black History | PBS. Retrieved 2017-05-17.
- "Harriet Tubman". www.pbs.org. Retrieved 2017-05-17.
- "Ella Fitzgerald". Ella Fitzgerald. Retrieved 2017-05-17.
- DeVeaux, Scott (2009). Jazz. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393192742.
- "Billie Holiday". Biography.com. Retrieved 2017-05-17.
- Vercoutter, Jean (1976-01-01). The Image of the Black in Western art. Morrow. ISBN 9780688030865.
- Walker, Robin (2006-01-01). When We Ruled: The Ancient and Mediœval History of Black Civilisations. Every Generation Media. ISBN 9780955106804.
- Sertima, Ivan Van (1984-01-01). Black Women in Antiquity. Transaction Books. ISBN 9780878559824.