On a recent afternoon, Stanford students from the class Global Black Feminism helped give voice to some of the underrepresented Black women who fought for civil and women’s rights across the world.

From figures such as feminist scholar Barbara Smith, playwright Shirley Graham Du Bois and former Black Panther Party chairwoman Elaine Brown, students shared these women’s stories by inviting the public to get as close to the primary source as possible: viewing original items related to them from Stanford Libraries’ Special Collections.

Students welcomed community members to a special viewing at Green Library, where they had on display historical materials such as handwritten letters from writer and poet Audre Lorde, audio clips of civil rights organizer Fannie Lou Hamer, and interviews with such feminist scholars as Gloria Jean Watkins, who writes under the lowercased pseudonym bell hooks.

For sophomore Kiara Dunbar, viewing the original, historic materials brought the women’s stories and scholarship to life – which Dunbar and the other students in the class highlighted at the afternoon open house.

“It makes their work and just their existence more tangible,” said Dunbar, who is majoring in African & African American Studies (AAAS). “I don’t think people visit the archives very often and less so, for Black women. A lot of our work here is for people to get a holistic understanding of these black women and to place them in different time periods and give them a fuller image.”

Some of the other items on display included black-and-white portraits by Susanna Lucia Lamaina of Angela Davis and other activists, as well as photographs of the civil rights struggle from the Bob Fitch collection.

“I think that the way these women are able to navigate the world to build solidarity and community really teaches us how we can today also build similar community,” said Joel Swann, a senior majoring in communication.