On December 10th, 1976, Karen Beecher became the first Black female superhero to appear in DC Comics, debuting in Volume 1, Issue #45 of Teen Titans. Karen was an engineer whose ingenuity led to her superhero status as ‘Bumblebee.’ Her origin story and character development begin her journey with a fight to be seen, heard, and trusted. She struggled, but she was brilliant, nonetheless. And isn’t this the case for so many Black women?
But Karen Beecher’s story is about much more than fandom and a comic book character. It’s about the cultural representation that Black girls and women needed to see 45 years ago — and still need today.
Growing up, school teachings about Black women in history usually center enslavement, but lack meaningful discourse about liberation. Facts of the past are undoubtedly needed to better the future, but the erasure of so many Black womens’ victories in American history allows oppression to take center stage. Black identity and oppression are often taught as one, and these lessons are passed down to Black girls in the classroom on a daily basis, generation by generation.
American history is less likely to teach how Black womens’ contributions were removed from the history of women’s suffrage and the many social justice movements that continue to follow a similar path of ignoring Black women. Even in 2020, a study by the American Psychological Association noted that Black women were considered to be just as masculine as Black males by people of other racial identities. As a result, Black women are more overlooked by advocates for social justice.
Stereotypes about Black women are pervasive in society and reach far beyond the classroom and political spaces.
As Black girls mature into women, they are more…