Alice Dunbar-Nelson was a #BlackGirlFromTheFuture


“To choose the life of a writer, a black female must arm herself with a fool's courage, foolhardiness, and serious purpose and dedication to the art of writing, a strength of will and integrity, because the odds are always against her. The cards are stacked.”

- Margaret Walker

In February 2010 Renina Jarmon shared the hashtag #BlackGirlsAreFromTheFuture with the world. The hashtag and subsequent movement reflect Black women's historic dedication to creating alternative spaces and projects that highlight our diversity and experiences. These kinds of acts were present even during the 1920’s which was a booming time period for Black artists, especially those involved with the Harlem Renaissance. The time period and space offered an incredible opportunity for new and established artists to connect and share with each other. For those who were not close enough to partake in the creative atmosphere, they had to depend on themselves to foster a similarly inspiring environment. One of those people was Alice Dunbar-Nelson, a creative Black woman living states away from the Harlem Renaissance in Wilmington, Delaware. As the widow of Paul Laurence Dunbar, her own writing was often overshadowed by his tremendous legacy. More than that, she was a woman light years ahead of her time, and her professional and personal goals, as recorded in her diary, reflect that. Gloria T. Hull would later reprint and publish the diary under the title, Give Us Each Day in the 1980's. By the year 1921 Dunbar-Nelson had established herself as a novelist, poet, women’s rights activist, newspaper founder and entrepreneur. Unfortunately, she was also underemployed, overworked, and under-appreciated. The early twentieth century was not a nurturing time period for women, especially the outspoken, socially conscious, bisexual, educated, ones.

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#BlackGirlsarefromthefuture because they understand that the...people may not get the art that they create, but they go ahead and create it anyway.- R.J

Some passages from her diary may leave the audience under the impression that she was suffering from depression. In an effort to gain control over “low” moods Dubar-Nelson would turn to the two sources that revitalized her: writing and friendship. In her diary she speaks often of interesting projects like writing about female heroes, her desire to direct films, and dreams of expanding her newspaper mill. She also talks vividly about a social circle of creative and talented Black women whose company she often sought. Being able to depend upon other Black women as support systems was consistent throughout her lifetime. She receives this initially from the women in her family, and later she looks to some of her friends for guidance and support. She writes about reading unpublished poems by her friend, Georgia Johnson, penning an autobiography of for Edina “Krusie” Kruse, and “fan-girling” over Mary Mcleod Bethune.

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#Blackgirlsarefromthefuture because we make the shit we believe in.- R.J

Alice Dunbar-Nelson is a #BlackGirlFromTheFuture because she committed herself to the development of creative, social, and political work in women-centered environments before social media made connecting easier. In one entry she wrote, “… I fear humiliation and sorrow await me. Still one must not fear…” (Dunbar-Nelson 107). This assertion that she was afraid, and still could not afford to be, is reflective of the experiences of many creative Black women. There is a fear of being misunderstood, or unsuccessful but as the author herself shows us, the desire to create and support from like women will eclipse fear every single time. Happy Birthday Ms. Alice! We salute you.

AshleyAshely Tisdale is a recent graduate of Florida A&M University. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in English, and is currently in the process of pursuing a PhD. She is a big sister, dreamer, prayer, girlfriend, and underemployed window shopping enthusiast. She thinks "Black Girls Are Fly because history has simultaneously deemed us un-credited trendsetters and undesirable. Despite these consistent inconsistencies, we celebrate ourselves." Find her: