Tuesday, May 31, 2011


"Faster than a speeding bullet.
More powerful than a locomotive.
Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Look! Up in the sky!
It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Superman!

Yes, it's Superman - strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman - who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel with his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights the never ending battle for Truth, Justice and the American Way".

If I have heard this quote once, I must have heard it at least a hundred times. When I think of this quote, however, Kent Clark as Superman does not come to my mind. What comes to my mind are three incredible women who were able to help change the course of  women's history, help bend the pendulum of literature from White men, and birth and raise nine women in the "dirty South" and I mean the DIRTY Jim Crow South. All three women fought for "the never ending battle for Truth, Justice and the American way", doing this all while being mild mannered, very much like Kent Clark. Let's briefly discuss Sojourner Truth, Toni Morrison, and my momma: Nettie Armstead Stallworth.

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth, whose given name was Isabella Baumfree, was born a slave and was bilingual. Image a slave being bilingual. Well, she was! She spoke Dutch and English. She luckily ended up in the state of New York, and New York began the gradual abolition of slavery in 1799.  Sojourner's master promised to free her, but he reneged on that promise. REALLY!!! So, "Superwoman Sojourner" decided to run away, or as she put it, walk away.  As time went on, I am cutting her story a little short, she decided to become a traveling preacher. Now, anyone who knows anything about "religious people" know that being a woman preacher has been frowned upon for years, but to try  and be one in 1843 and make money doing it, truly makes Sojourner a "Superwoman."  She also had the audacity, being an ex-slave, to stand at the Ohio's Woman's Right Convention in the year of  18 and  50 and say "I can work as much and eat as much as man, when I could get it, and bear the lash as well -- and ain't I a woman" in her famous "Ain't I a Woman Speech."  This sho nuff makes Sojourner Truth a "Superwoman". "She didn't leap tall buildings in a single bound" like Superman, but she did help to start changing the way that African American women were viewed, and that definitely puts her in the "Superwoman" category.

Toni Morrison
Now, my all time favorite who made my vision board, Toni Morrison, definitely qualifies to be in the category with "Superman."  I am really pondering which one of her writings put her in this category: Sula, The Bluest Eye, Love, or my all time favorite Song of Solomon. Okay, I'm being bias, but really, everything that she has written puts her in the "Superwoman" category.

Please allow me a few minutes to digress and talk about Song of Solomon.  I taught this novel for the first time this year, and I must say that I had a ball.  My students and I dissected this novel the same way that a scientist dissects a rat. One of my students, in her digital portfolio, stated that "this was an awakening experience, not that I didn't not know that my people (African Americans) were capable of writing scholarly novels, my previous teachers just never embraced the novels as Ms. Stallworth did."  Another student stated that "I got more out of Song of Solomon, than I have out of any other book I have read."

Back to my point! Historically, schools have mainly focused on White male writers: William Faulkner, William Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald, just to name a few.  Don't get me wrong, I love these guys and their writings, but I know that there are some women writers who deserve to be in the ranks with these men: Zora Neale Hurston, Virginia Wolfe, Tananarive Due, and of course, Toni Morrison. Toni Morrison, has firmly established herself in the rank with these men and has started the literary pendulum to shift towards women.  Her works are studied in Colleges, Universities, and High Schools across this country, and she has even made the AP English exam. So, I don't have to say much more about why she is a "Superwoman."  She may not be "faster than a speeding bullet," but when a  person can began to shift the literary pendulum, that definitely puts a person in the "Superwoman" category.

My momma, Nettie Armstead Stallworth

Now, my momma, Nettie Armstead Stallworth, name is not in any history books, and she may never be talked about on television or the Internet, except in this blog, but she definitely qualifies to be a "Superwoman."  Raised in the rural South, she met my daddy, LJ Stallworth, and they went on to have nine girls.  That was not a typo, they had nine girls and no boys.  My momma would clean the house, wash and fold clothes, and cook breakfast and dinner, we ate lunch at school, without a single complaint. Now, only a "Superwoman" could do this. She would press our hair, pick vegetables from a mile long garden, and can the vegetables, without saying a "murmuring word."  Now, doing all these tasks definitely makes my momma a "Superwoman."

After my daddy died, my momma made the decision to leave the house that we were raised in despite what anyone thought.  Not only did she leave our childhood house, she left the state and moved to Georgia. This women had the audacity to leave all that she knew and start a new life in her 70s, she even briefly, had a boyfriend. Now, that's a whole 'nother blog that I may get to later. She is not "more powerful than a locomotive," but she did successfully raise nine strong girls with my Daddy, and this definitely puts her in the category of "Superwoman."

So, I can't take anything away from Superman; he really was Super. However, there are other Superheros, some are known and others are unknown, but their imprints will be left on the world forever.


DeeMartir said...

The tribute to Nettie (and LJ) made me a little teary eyed. Thanks

Anonymous said...

What great women. This is a tribute to living your life and planting seeds for the next generation. Even though Nettie was at home, she taught a lesson everyday. These lessons were about respecting and loving yourself, being able to support yourself and getting an education. It is no wonder that all nine girls attended college.

James Gilliam said...

One word: Awesome!!

James Gilliam

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...