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Archive for March 25th, 2024

Anna Taylor Sweringen/Michal Scott: Josephine Silone Yates – Another Undaunted Pioneer (Contest)
Monday, March 25th, 2024

UPDATE: The winner is…Mary McCoy!

It never ceases to amaze me how the African American women of the 19th century did not allow societal limitations to keep them from pursuing and obtaining their dreams. Josephine Silone Yates is another of them. Born in 1859 in New York on Long Island in Suffolk County, by the time Josephine Silone Yates died in 1912 she had been a professor, a writer, a public speaker, an activist, and the first African American woman to head a college science department. Many of the works written on her life focus not only on her work as a pioneering African American female chemist but also as an advocate for early care and education for young African American children.

She attended several schools in her youth and didn’t allow the fact that she was often the only African American student keep her from excelling. At a young age, Josephine showed an aptitude for physiology and physics. By the time she attended the Rogers High School in Newport, Rhode Island, her science teacher was so impressed that he allowed her to do chemistry labs. She graduated from Rogers in 1877 as her class’s valedictorian. Her teachers urged her to go on to university, but she chose the path of teaching instead. In 1879, she graduated from the Rhode Island State Normal School and became the first African American certified to teach in that state’s public schools.

She moved to Jefferson Missouri to teach at Lincoln University either in 1879 or 1881, depending on your sources. There she taught chemistry, botany, drawing, elocution, and English literature. She was promoted to the head of Lincoln’s natural Sciences department in 1886, making her the first African American woman to head a college science department. This also made her the first African American woman to be a full professor at any college or university in the United States. All the while she was teaching, she wrote newspaper and magazine articles under the penname R.K. Potter. By 1900, she was publishing poetry, too.

When she married William Ward Yates in 1889, she resigned from her university position, moved to Kansas City with her husband, and had two children. While he served as a principal there, she blossomed as an activist. Like many African American women of her time, she became active in the African American Women’s Club movement. She helped found the Women’s League of Kansas City in 1893. When the League joined the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), Josephine served in various offices from 1897 to 1901. She promoted the establishment of kindergartens and day nurseries through the NACW to help prepare African American children for a post-emancipation society where they would not be taught to be subservient second-class citizens.

Lincoln University asked Josephine to return in 1902 to head their English and history department. She did this until 1908 when she offered to resign because of ill health. Her resignation was refused, so she remained as an advisor to women until 1910. She continued championing education and advancement for African American women, helping to found the first African American Young Women’s Christian Association in Kansas City a year before she died.

Looking back on women like Josephine I am inspired by how their drive stems from wanting as many people as possible to benefit from their accomplishments. I hope someday the same can be said of me.

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Better To Marry Than To Burn by Michal Scott

Wife Wanted: Marital relations as necessary. Love not required nor sought…

A bridal lottery seems the height of foolishness to ex-slave Caesar King, but his refusal to participate in the town council’s scheme places him in a bind. He has to get married to avoid paying a high residence fine or leave the Texas territory. After losing his wife in childbirth, Caesar isn’t ready for romance. A woman looking for a fresh start without any emotional strings is what he needs.

Queen Esther Payne, a freeborn black from Philadelphia, has been threatened by her family for her forward-thinking, independent ways. Her family insists she marry. Her escape comes in the form of an ad. If she must marry, it will be on her terms. But her first meeting with the sinfully hot farmer proves an exciting tussle of wills that stirs her physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

In the battle of sexual one-upmanship that ensues, both Caesar and Queen discover surrender can be as fulfilling as triumph.


Queen Esther Payne arrived at noon on September fourteenth and proved to be a paragon indeed.

Caesar gawked at the copper-toned Amazon who emerged from the stagecoach like royalty descending from a throne.

Queen. Her name definitely suited. Only Cleopatra could have fit better. Maybe Sheba.

The afternoon sunlight crowned her with rays of gold. Kinky black ringlets covered her head, declaring she had a Nubian pride befitting the woman he’d want to wed. She used her bonnet to fan away dirt dusted up by the stagecoach’s departure. Her twisting and turning revealed an hourglass waist above curvaceous hips.

At his approach, her eyebrow curved over a gaze brimming with criticism. “Caesar King?”

He removed his hat and extended his hand in greeting. “At your service, Queen.”

She donned her hat and examined him with that regal air. “Miss Payne, if you please. You may call me Queen after the nuptials.” She finished tying her hat’s long ribbons beneath her chin. “Although, even then, I’d prefer Mrs. King.”

“You don’t say?” He chuckled, taking her measure from head to foot. “Well, Miss Payne it is…for now.”

She filled her face with a frown. “I don’t appreciate being examined like some newly purchased cow, Mr. King.”

He pulled back. Amusement wrestled with annoyance. “I’m making sure you measure up, Miss Payne.”

“Pray, to what criteria?” She shoved her valise against his chest. Caesar grunted, surprised but pleased by her strength.

She crossed her arms, causing her lovely bosom to swell. “I doubt there’s a standard for marriages of convenience.”

He inhaled against the pull of desire throbbing in his privates. “The same criteria as you, I suspect—my own self-worth and what I deserve.” He dropped the bag at her feet. “So, by that token, I don’t appreciate being treated like some fetch-and- carry boy.”

She lowered her gaze. But for the set of her jaw, he’d have taken the gesture for an apology.

He leaned forward and whispered, “If you ask me nicely, I’d gladly carry your bag.”

“A gentleman wouldn’t need to be asked.” Her tone dripped with disdain. “A gentleman would simply take it.”

“I do many things, Miss Payne.” He pushed up the brim of his hat and grinned, fired up by the hazel flame sparking in her eyes. “Pretending to be a gentleman doesn’t number among them.”