August 18th marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote. As chronicled in American Experience’s documentary The Vote, the victory was not easy and was heavily influenced by the deeply-entrenched racism in America. Despite being often sidelined, Black men and women played an essential role in that movement, and viewed the right to vote as essential in the struggle for racial justice.

Here are 5 of those figures, illustrated by Boston-based artist Ambrojah Williams.

Sojourner Truth


Sojourner Truth is considered the first African-American suffragist. Born a slave in New York, she ran away as a teenager and found freedom. In her speech at a women’s rights conference in Akron, Ohio in 1851 titled “Ain’t I a Women?” she called attention to her intersecting identities as a woman and a Black person, and challenged the notion that women’s suffrage would automatically elevate Black women without also fighting for civil rights.

Frederick Douglass


Frederick Douglass described himself as a “woman’s rights man” and used his prominence as a famous abolitionist to advance the cause of women’s suffrage. At the pivotal Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, Douglass was the only African American in attendance and delivered a passionate speech in support of the vote for women.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper


Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was an organizer and launched her career when she delivered an antislavery talk, “Education and the Elevation of the Colored Race,” in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1854. In 1866, Harper spoke at the National Women’s Rights Convention in New York and called on attendees to incorporate Black women into the movement for suffrage.

Ida B. Wells


Ida B. Wells was a journalist and dedicated her life to fighting racial injustice in the South. She founded the Alpha Suffrage Club for African-American women, the first suffrage club for Black women in Illinois. Her group was asked to march in the back of Alice Paul's parade in DC, but Wells persisted and moved up to march alongside the white women.

Mary Church Terrell


Mary Church Terrell, a daughter of former slaves, was a member of the Black middle class who used their standing in society to push for racial equality. She was one of the first African American women to earn a college degree, from Oberlin. As the co-founder of the National Association of Colored Women, Terrel’s words “Lifting as we climb” became the group’s motto.