Living Statues of History by Austin-East Class of 1972. Photo by Vivian Shipe

By Vivian Shipe

KNOXVILLE, TN — They all came,  black and white,  to pay homage to the shoulders on which they stood: those unsung African American women who fought for the 19th Amendment but were left out of the pages of history.

Herstory was told by prestigious African American women leaders of Knoxville at the Shades of Suffrage event held on February 29th.

They all left their titles at the door as they stepped into their position as the present day Suffragist whose job it now is to protect that vote. They sang, danced, presented poetry original songs, and speeches in honor of the women they admired.  

Reminiscent of those days one hundred years ago when a tea party was really a cover for

Donna Hardy and Lacresha McKinney were in attendance.

strategic planning to get the vote, help empower women, and build the people up….the event began with a high tea served with beautiful china, and a presentation by the Austin-East Class of 1972 who were living statues of Black History, standing around the perimeter of the function. 

Students who participated in the essay project were recognized and were awarded medallions for researching an unknown African American woman and her part in the struggle.

A highlight of the afternoon was the recognition of two of Knoxville’s long time leading present day Suffragist. Wanda Sobieski and Leanna Groves who together have over 100 years of combined dedication to getting people registered to vote, fighting voter suppression,  and ensuring the world never forgets the struggle to get the 19th amendment passed.

Phase Two, the creation of a book written by children in words and art about their favorite unsung Black Suffragist and the upcoming August launch party was announced as the program came to an end at 5 pm on a beautiful Sunny day.

After being given their charge for the next one hundred years; the racially mixed crowd left: empowered, uplifted, united.

Ready to go forth, determined not to repeat the mistakes of exclusion that in the past had so bitterly divided women by race who truly had the same goal: get that right to vote.

As they left ..the words of the charge:. Suffrage HAS no color, hung in the air.