5 takeaways from Ashley Farmer’s AMA on black women’s history

Learnings from a Boston University history professor‘s Reddit chat during Women’s History Month

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Reddit username: AshleyFarmer

or Women’s History Month, Boston University historian Dr. Ashley Farmer took to Reddit’s r/AskHistorians subreddit to field questions on her expertise: black women’s history. Over 80 Redditors chimed in with questions, which varied from extreme specificity to general queries.

Here are our top five takeaways from the conversation:

1. Shirley Chisholm—the first black woman to serve in U.S. Congress—had a lasting legacy and a fantastic campaign slogan

Dr. Farmer and a Redditor went back and forth about Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-NY), discussing her influence on generations of women to follow. Agreeing first and foremost that Chisholm is an unsung hero of the United States’ political history, they remarked on her ability to rally support and on her snappy political tagline, “Unbought and Unbossed.”

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2. Women were more involved in the Black Panther Party than people realize

Many Redditors were curious about the Black Panther Party and its female involvement. Dr. Farmer explained that while women became much more active after the party’s ideological shift in 1969, they were always involved. For instance, women made artwork for The Black Panther newspaper (the BPP’s main source of revenue) and got the same weapons training as male members. Dr. Farmer cited Tarika Lewis as a classic example of female members of the BPP.

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3. A new reading list

It’s clear that Dr. Farmer is a voracious reader. Redditors most likely came away with a long list of titles to add to their bookshelves after the AMA wrapped up. Dr. Farmer mentioned influential works in her answers on specific questions, and received two questions asking for reading recommendations on the subject of her research and on history in general (a teacher even wrote in to ask Dr. Farmer what books she would assign for a Black History Month curriculum).

A handful of her recommended books:

  • A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History by Jeanne Theoharis
  • After Mecca: Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement by Cheryl Clarke
  • Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee
  • Living for the Revolution: Black Feminist Organizations, 1968–1980 by Kimberly Springer
  • Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
  • Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr.

4. A history major gives you skills for a wide range of jobs

Have no fears about entering the job market, wrote Dr. Ashley Farmer — the skills history majors learn in school are plentiful and can be applied to a wide-ranging number of fields.

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5. Reddit holds the power to inspire (and to make you say “awwww”)

A Redditor wrote in asking Dr. Farmer to help encourage her niece to study by sending along the names of black female scientists. Dr. Farmer fired back with three right away, leading to this heartwarming exchange.

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To read the AMA in full, visit the conversation on r/AskHistorians.

For additional commentary by Boston University experts, follow us on Twitter at @BUexperts and on Instagram at @buexperts.

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Cutting-edge research and commentary out of Boston University, home to Nobel laureates, Pulitzer winners and Guggenheim Scholars. Find an expert: bu.edu/experts

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