A s we celebrate the intrinsic breadth, depth and beauty of women during Women’s History Month (and always), this month’s Justice + Art selections recognize the strength, tenacity, resilience and unabashed brilliance of Black women who have soared despite never-ending efforts to silence their voices.

Art

Lois Mailou Jones

Lois Mailou Jones (1905-1998), an American painter and an art teacher for almost a half-century at Howard University in Washington, DC, is known as an iconic figure and an important historic link in a path-breaking generation of Black American artists. Her work ranged from impressionistic landscapes to political allegories, and from cubistic depictions of African sculptures to realistic portraits. (The New York Times)

A native of Boston, MA, Jones spent her childhood on Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard, an enclave safe for Black leisure where she had her first solo show at 17. A year-long fellowship in Paris gave the young artist the freedom to live as she wished without the indignities of segregation that she felt at home. Jones was also exposed to the cultural life of the Harlem Renaissance and began studying the African masks that would become central to her best-known paintings. Her work is in the National Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum, and the Museum of Fine Art, among others.

Indian Shops, Gay Head, Massachusetts (1940): This painting exemplifies the silencing of Black female voices and the extreme measures Jones had to employ to be heard. She was awarded a Corcoran Gallery award for landscape painting, among others, but had to have a white friend enter the work and later accept the prize by mail to keep her race hidden. Fifty years later, the Gallery publicly apologized for their discrimination. 

Lois M. Jones: American Harlem Oil on Canvas (1956) features a Haitian woman with two masks.

Music

Florence Beatrice Price

Composer Florence Beatrice Price (1887 – 1953) shattered glass ceilings in classical music as the first Black woman to have her composition played by a major orchestra. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas and trained at the New England Conservatory, Price won the Wanamaker Competition with her Symphony in E minor, paving the way for its 1933 premiere with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Later, the great contralto Marian Anderson sang Price’s arrangement of “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord” at her historic 1939 Lincoln Memorial concert in Washington, D.C.

Despite Price’s prominence, much of her music fell into neglect and has only recently been rediscovered. Among those championing her work today is The Philadelphia Orchestra, whose recording of Price’s Symphony No. 1 in E Minor and Symphony No. 3 in C Minor won a 2024 Grammy Award for best orchestral performance. (NPR)

Featured Writing

Georgia Douglas Johnson

The Heart of a Woman, a poem

The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn,
As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on,
Afar o’er life’s turrets and vales does it roam
In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home.

The heart of a woman falls back with the night,
And enters some alien cage in its plight,
And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars
While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars.

Johnson’s husband, Henry Lincoln Johnson, was an attorney ten years her senior who desired his wife to be a homemaker and only begrudgingly accepted her writing career. After his death, Johnson’s writing career allowed her to support her two children. She dedicated this poem to him.

Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880-1966) was one of the most well-known Black female writers, poets, and playwrights of her time. Known for writing about love and womanhood, her published works touched many and were featured in the most widely-read Black publications of the 20th century. Douglas Johnson’s Washington, D.C. home, known as the S Street Salon, was a weekly gathering place for writers of the Harlem Renaissance. In her lifetime, she published four books and won several awards for her contributions to literature, theater, and poetry. 

Film

Shirley

Netflix biopic Shirley (2024) tells the story of trailblazing political icon Shirley Chisholm —the first Black Congresswoman and the first Black woman to run for President of the U.S.—and the cost of accomplishment for Shirley herself. The film follows the dynamic presidential campaign launched in 1972 by Shirley Chisholm and draws on extensive conversations with Chisholm’s family and friends. Directed by John Ridley starring Regina King.

If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.
—Shirley Chisolm

Pitch in today.

Your donation to JusticeAid will support Black Voters Matter’s fight against voter suppression.

Join the family.

Read up on JusticeAid events and our support for Black Voters Matter.