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Margaret Sloan-Hunter (left)
Margaret Sloan-Hunter was born on this date in 1947. She was a Black lesbian, writer, publisher, feminist, and civil rights activist.
She was born in Chattanooga, TN., and grew up in Chicago. She was 14 years old when she joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), a group that worked on poverty and urban issues on behalf of the Black community in Chicago. She organized tenants’ unions, rent strikes, and campaigned against the lead poisoning plaguing housing on the West Side, all before she was even old enough to vote.
In high school, she won awards for public speaking, and at 17, she founded the Junior Catholic Inter-Racial Council, a group of inner-city and suburban students who worked together against racism. That group talked about problems with racism and worked on racial problems. She attended Chicago City College and Malcolm X College, majoring in speech, and earned her bachelor's degree in Women's Studies at Antioch University in San Francisco. In the summer of 1966, she participated in the open housing marches in Chicago with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and later worked as a coordinator of a Hunger Task Force at Operation Breadbasket with the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Sloan-Hunter was one of the early editors of Ms. Magazine. While based in New York, she traveled extensively with Gloria Steinem, lecturing on sexism and racism throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. She was awarded the key to the city of her birth, Chattanooga. In 1973, she founded and was the first chairwoman of the National Black Feminist Organization and she gave hundreds of lectures at institutions such as Harvard and Yale and to grass-roots groups such as the National Welfare Rights Organization.
Two years later, she and her daughter moved to California, where they established the Women's Foundation. She and her daughter, who friends say was also her best friend, worked as organizers with the Feminist School for Girls and Berkeley Women's Center. Through her generally outgoing personality, Sloan-Hunter kept friends she had made back in kindergarten. One friend, Karen Thompson, said in the 12 years she knew Sloan-Hunter, she quickly grew to love a friend who loved her back in such a singular way.
Sloan-Hunter’s published works include articles in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and the Civil Rights Digest, as well as the very first issue of Ms. Magazine and subsequent issues. Her essays and poems can be found in such magazines as the Lesbian Path and For Lesbians Only. Her books include the 1995 Black and Lavender: The Collected Poems of Margaret Sloan-Hunter.
Margaret Sloan-Hunter, an early editor at Ms. Magazine, a poet, and an intersectionality activist fighting for feminist, lesbian, and African American causes died Sept. 23, 2004, in Oakland, CA, after what her family called a prolonged illness. Sloan-Hunter used to say, "I'm not black Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and a woman Thursday, Friday and Saturday, ” her friend and colleague Gloria Steinem once said of her. “ She really made clear that the black woman could be, and had to be, loyal to both her race and her gender.”
In addition to her daughter, survivors included her mother, Virginia Wilson, of Chicago, and a sister, Barbara Cross, of Sedona, AZ. A memorial party and dance at the Montclair Women's Culture Arts Club in Oakland was held in her honor. A website the family set up in her memory invited people to her memorial party with a quote from Sloan-Hunter: “We women are the best thing going. We are warm, passionate, we cry and we live! Let's celebrate.”