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February President's Message

February 01, 2021 1:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Happy Black History Month!  African Americans have celebrated traditionally and proudly the life, legacy, and achievements of our Black Heritage in the month of February since 1976.  Yet, we can all agree that it's every day of our lives to commemorate the courageous trailblazers who tirelessly paved the way for a better and equitable world for all.

The earlier U.S. women's rights movement often overlooked the contributions of African American women.  Nevertheless, they played a pivotal role in helping to confront the fight for equal rights across all spectrums in the nation.  Prior to the women’s rights movement, one of our historical icons, Harriet Tubman affirmed:  "you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."  As such, the authentic deep passion of African American women gave voice for change in the past leading to the present.

In this month's issue, TEMPO Madison is proud to highlight the legendary Black women in our community, who shattered glass ceilings and continued to be visionary in a world that often thinks otherwise.  We are shining a long-overdue spotlight on the African American women who became first in the Madison region.  Their work and contributions span across education, business, health care, government/politics, non-profits, arts, retail, media, entrepreneurship, and beyond.  Please note that the following list is not complete, but a great start to illustrating where we have been and where we are today.

  • 1839: An unidentified African American female became the first Black resident of Madison (She was a servant to a hotel owner)

  • 1915: Amanda Carmichael (and spouse John Hill) opened Madison’s first black-owned business (grocery store)

  •  1950:  Velma Bell Hamilton was the first full-time African American educator hired at Madison Vocational & Adult School (Known as Madison College) and Hamilton Middle School is named in her honor (1993)

  • 1952: Vel Philips was the first Black woman to earn her law degree from the UW-Madison Law School, first to win a seat on Milwaukee City Council, first to become a judge, and WI Secretary of State.

  • 1962: Geraldine Bernard is the Black female teacher hired by MMSD.

  • 1964:  Fannie Frazier Hicklin was the First African American Professor at UW - Whitewater

  • 1970:  Barbara Nichols became the first President of Wisconsin Nurses Association, first Black to be elected in its 150 years; former TEMPO Madison member

  • 1972: Charlene Harris-Lode became the first Black woman news anchor on local television (anchor for Channel 15 WNTV news)

  • 1973:  Betty Latimer, later known as Milele Chikasa Anana was elected as the first African American woman to serve on the Madison Metropolitan School Board

  • 1983: Darlene Hancock was the first African American woman principal in the MMSD  (Glenn Stephens Elementary)

  • 1990: Katherine Marie Jackson, Madison’s first Black woman firefighter

  • 1991: Frances Huntley-Cooper the first Black mayor (Fitchburg) in Wisconsin. 2001/02: The first Black President of TEMPO Madison

  • 1994:  Marion F. Brown, first Black Vice President of Development at UW-Madison Foundation

  •  2004: Gloria Ladson-Billings, first African American woman to earn tenure in the School of Education at UW-Madison

  • 2010: Fabu Phillis Carter is Madison’s first Black Poet Laureate

  • 2015: Barbara H. McKinney and Sheri Carter became the first Black women Alders in Madison. Carter is serving as the first Black female Council President (2020-21)

  • 2016: Corinda Rainey-Moore is the first African American woman to serve as Board Chair of the National Alliance on Mental Health of Dane County, Safe Communities and Leadership Wisconsin

  • 2017: Angela Byars-Winston becomes the first African American woman full professor in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health

  • 2017: Vanessa Rae McDowell became the first Black woman CEO of the YWCA of Dane County (The organization has existed for 109 years before she shattered this glass ceiling)

  • 2018: Jasmine Zapata, MD, MPH has become the first Black woman to graduate dual degrees in UW-Madison Preventative Medicine and Public Health Residency Program at UW-Madison

  • 2019:  Enid V. Glenn, first Black woman to chair Madison Community Foundation

  • 2020: Nia Trammell, the first African American woman judge to serve outside of Milwaukee County and the sixth Black woman to serve as a judge in Wisconsin and also a TEMPO Madison member

And leading up to our reflections of Black History Month 2021, we celebrate Kamala D. Harris, our first Black and Asian American woman elected to the U.S. vice presidency. Another historical first – Amanda Gorman, the youngest Black woman to serve as the 2021 Inaugural Poet, mesmerized the nation with her poignant address – “The Hill We Climb.”

As noted above, the first Black female leaders are an inspiration no matter our ethnicity or heritage.  They opened doors to opportunities that would still be closed if it were not for their passion and fervor to reach for the stars.  As a Black leader in the Madison community, it’s an honor to beam the light on extraordinary women who serve as an example for each of us to make a difference throughout the month of February and always.

With gratitude,

Leslie Petty, President

TEMPO Madison

Comments

  • February 01, 2021 4:20 PM | Becky Steinhoff
    Thanks for sharing this list of inspirational black women.
    Link  •  Reply
    • February 02, 2021 10:05 AM | Susan Pigorsch
      Leslie, I really appreciate you putting together this timeline of exceptional Black women leaders in Dane County. The Harriet Tubman quote puts it all in context. I'm with Frances -- let's see this list grow!
      Link  •  Reply
  • February 01, 2021 4:25 PM | Frances Huntley-Cooper
    Very nice job to highlight local "glass ceiling breakers" in the Dane County and some holding state wide positions. You are motivating me to research others so we can add to this list. Job well done! I know many of the women above brought other glass ceilings in their career or community. Leslie Petty has broken glass ceilings - please add her name. Thank you.
    Link  •  Reply
  • February 01, 2021 6:47 PM | Donna Beestman
    Thanks, Leslie, for sharing this historical information about outstanding Black women leaders in our community!
    Link  •  Reply
  • February 01, 2021 8:35 PM | Susan LaBelle
    Thank you Leslie for this celebration of inspirational women.
    Link  •  Reply
  • February 06, 2021 8:44 PM | Barbara Hughes
    We need to add Michelle Behnke, in 2004-2005 the first Black woman President of the State Bar of Wisconsin!
    Link  •  Reply
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