As a way of showcasing Black women and women of color who have fought for equity in voting rights or served in political office, faculty and students are creating an archive of oral history interviews with politically active women of color from across the state and region. Professor of History Dan Fountain is the director of the Voices of Change Oral History Project. Interviews will be preserved in the Voices of Change collection at Meredith College and in the archives of our partner institutions.
View Highlights From the Interviews Below
How has activism or political engagement shaped your life?
Valerie Jones was born in Snow Hill, North Carolina. Her political activism started in high school where she was the President of the Future Homemakers of America. Her later political activism was encouraged by her representative at Bennett College, Katie Dorsett. Jones is currently a member of the Sedalia Town Council and is currently advocating for racial equality. The most memorable thing about her activism is “the adrenaline rush and the feeling that you’re doing something that’s important and that you’re getting something done.” With racial equality being her main point of concern Jones says that Civil Rights has been one of the most important political issues of her lifetime, as it has impacted her life greatly as a black woman.
“It’s changed how I see the world because being in Raleigh and going to different rallies, and having more information now than I used to have has changed how I see the world and how I see minorities fit into that world.”—Valerie Jones
Is there a form of activism you find more successful than others?
Nicole Dozier was born in North Haven, Connecticut. She was introduced to activism by her parents, who played a pivotal role in the integration of Durham, North Carolina. Dozier has always been involved in policy, but her advocacy started within the state government. She believes in increased funding of the education system to encourage equity, as she thinks that access to good health care has a direct correlation to productivity in school and the community. Dozier is the Director of the Health Advocacy Project at the NC Justice Center, where she works to bring health care to people across the country. Dozier is currently working towards the opening of a senior center in the area.
“I have tons of stories in my head that I know by heart, if you can keep people’s stories at the centerpiece of what you’re doing and stay in contact, you’ll be doing the right thing.”—Nicole Dozier
Did you take away any life lessons from your early activism?
Valerie Johnson was born in San Diego, California. Though Johnson said she was aware of social policies and justice throughout her childhood, her strongest engagement in activism began in graduate school at the University of California Berkley, where she joined Anti-Apartheid protests. She notes that her education at historically black institutions, such as Spelman College and Atlanta University, shaped her thoughts and sense of social responsibility and influenced how Johnson instructs her courses. Johnson is currently Dean and Professor of Sociology at Shaw University.
“Those faculty really infused in us the need to stand up and advocate for what we believe in and for what is right, and that translated into the way in which I formulated my classes.”—Valerie Johnson
What or who encouraged you to become active in politics?
Monika Johnson Hostler
Monika Johnson Hostler was born in Thomasville, North Carolina. She stepped into her activist role while attending school for her undergraduate degree in psychology from Fayetteville State University, where she was actively involved in the NAACP. From there she accredits all the encouragement she received to be politically active to her daughter. Inspired by Rosa Parks, Johnson Hostler feels that both the Civil Rights and Women’s Movements are two of the most important political issues in our country. This reflects her work as she is currently advocating for Women’s rights throughout North Carolina and is the acting Executive Director of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
“What’s also been important to me, and still is, is that I see myself as the conduit; people who say, ‘These are the things I want,’ and are in a place, if it’s by choice or because of circumstances that they can’t share their sentiments, I feel like I am a conduit to share that.”—Monika Johnson Hostler
What impact has the women’s rights movement had on your life or your community?
Corrina Brown was born in North Charleston, South Carolina, and currently resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. She became interested in nonprofit work as a college student, which led her to pursue her master’s degree in Public Administration. While attending Winthrop University, Brown engaged in organized political activities. She interned at her local Democratic Party office, where she phoned constituents and worked at the local polling places. Brown is particularly an advocate for women’s abortion rights and the rights of women to make decisions for their own bodies. Brown also speaks about her experiences with racial stereotypes from her perspective and experience as a black woman with an advanced degree.
“That I am liberated and celebrating my body. The things in which I do, I shouldn’t be shamed for. The decisions that I make, I should be allowed to do them… whatever I decide to do with my body- It’s my choice.”—Corinna Brown
What are you currently advocating for?
Stella Adams was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. Adams began her political journey in high school, where her first act of activism involved encouraging the integration of people with disabilities into the classroom. For Adams, this meant transforming the schoolhouse into one accessible for all students after having witnessed a fellow student trapped in the hallway because she was unable to go down the steps. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied African American History, Adams continued her political journey. She is currently working as a State Executive Committee Member of the NC Democratic Party. Aside from the encouragement she received from family members, Adams’s activism resulted from her wanting to prove that she was not exceptional and that the black community and the individuals it encompasses are beautiful and brilliant. Adams’s husband is her biggest supporter as she works to pull the nation together. She believes her work and that of other activists should always be fun while acknowledging the inevitable difficulties laying ahead. She strives to encourage others to celebrate the little victories because it is the little victories that are the essence of our country.
“Anything where people are facing discrimination and being denied access to opportunities only and solely because of their race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity — you name it, I’m there because what’s supposed to make America great, and when America really truly is great, is when every person feels they have the opportunity to fully contribute to the success of their families and of this nation.”—Stella Adams
What is your most prevalent goal when it comes to being politically active?
Shelley Winters was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. Working as a strategist and as a past chair of the Raleigh Citizens Advisory Council, Winters aims to preserve the history of the freedman’s villages throughout the city of Raleigh. She is currently advocating for education, as she believes that true citizen engagement can only happen with proper education. Additionally, she believes that it is important for people to know what is going on around them and get involved and notes that the key to successful advocacy is to “stay involved, stay engaged, stay empowered.”
“For me, what is prevailing is that you, the universal you, have the most information in order to make the best decision for you, your family, and your community.”—Shelley Winters
How has activism shaped your life?
Yuri Yamamoto was born in Musashino City, Tokyo, Japan. Yamamoto has always been politically active as her mother had gone to demonstrations while she was in her womb. Currently working on the board of Raleigh against racism, she is primarily focusing on racial equity and its intersections with class issues. One of the most memorable moments in Yamamoto’s time as an activist was her creation of a book that featured stories on Unitarian Universalists of color, titled Unitarian Universalists of Color: Stories of Struggle, Courage, Love and Faith. She believes that in the ideal world, there should not be specific roles that women have in politics. Racism and colonialism are the two most important historical political issues in Yamamoto’s opinion, as she believes these are two things that cannot be separated from one another.
“They both shaped each other — life and activism.”—Yuri Yamamoto
Pictured L-R: Eva Clayton, Jeanne Lucas, Linda Coleman, Elizabeth Cofield, Shirley Chisholm, Loretta Lynch, Ida B. Wells,
DeAndrea Salvador, Alma Adams, Pamela Brewington Cashwell, Elreta Melton Alexander-Ralston, Shinica Thomas
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