Race is definitely one of those topics that, like feminism, is considered a controversial and “hot button” issue. Nonetheless, I stand firm to my belief in equality – particularly the equality that can persist in a community as welcoming as the riding community is today.
With the recent announcements of both a black Little Mermaid and a black female Agent 007, I thought now would be the perfect opportunity to emphasize my support. My identification with feminism is rooted in a knowledge of the history of inequality that has persisted in the United States – for all women, but surely for some more than others. A prime example being – while white women were granted suffrage in 1920, it was not until 1960 that some southerns states finally granted black women the right to vote. That was less than 60 years ago, and such injustice carries lasting effects.
While black women have undeniably been a prominently marginalized population throughout history, they have also been historically resilient. From Harriet Tubman, who not only completed 13 missions through the Underground Railroad and served as a general during the Civil War, to Bessie Stringfield, the valiant black female rider who toured through the Southern U.S. during the Jim Crow era – resilience has been a clear and prominent trait.
What makes me so excited about sharing Bessie’s story is that to her – she was a woman doing exactly what she felt like doing – riding her motorcycle. While what she was consequently accomplishing was successfully desegregating the riding community.
In 1930, Bessie Stringfield became the first African-American female to ride her motorcycle across the United States solo. It was through this valiant adventure that a path was paved for fellow African-American motorcycle enthusiasts who wanted the freedom to ride everywhere and anywhere they chose.
Despite sleeping on her motorcycle at various gas stations through the night, having been denied access at various places to rest her head due to the color of her skin, Bessie made eight long-distance solo rides through the United States. She faced violence and harassment along the way, but that didn’t stop her from doing what she felt she had every right to do – ride her motorcycle.
Her hardcore attitude only increased when she started her work for the U.S. Army as a motorcycle dispatch rider during World War II – as the only female in her unit.
Bessie’s resilience persisted through her life and stood out thanks to her passion for motorcycles. From disgusing herself as a man to participate in a Miami motorcycle race – only to be denied the prize upon removing her helmet, to eventually earning her rightful title as a Motorcycle Hall of Famer in 2002, it’s clear that her resilience seems to have an endless lifespan.
Bessie Stringfield rode her own ride while simultaneously trailblazing for the many women and women of color to follow the path she paved. Despite the struggles she was forced to overcome at the hands of injustice, it is thanks to her resilience that the riding community could morph into what it is today – a space for everyone to ride free.
If you feel inspired to know more about Bessie Stringfield, check out the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame page. If you or a fellow lady rider are interested in being featured, message me via email or through Instagram and Facebook @feminist_motorist. A big thanks to @kcycle_chronicals for today’s suggestion! If you have any suggestions for future Moto Miss Monday posts, please feel free to message as well! Until then, Ride on, lades.