NYT: Angry Black Woman Is Angry
03/18/2023
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From the New York Times news section:

A Retired Prosecutor’s Quest for Recognition

Stephanie Wright discovered that her name was omitted from a history book. She fought to get it put back.

By Trip Gabriel
March 18, 2023

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa—What is the weight of history?

For Stephanie Wright, it’s as slight as the thinnest of books, a 259-page volume that has upended her life for months and set her on an unusual and determined quest for recognition. …

None of it had anything to do with what was in the book. It’s what was left out that bothered her—her name.

Ms. Wright was a federal prosecutor in Iowa who made history in her own way. She was an assistant United States attorney in the Northern District of Iowa, the first African American prosecutor in the office. For 24 years, from 1994 until she retired in 2018, she was the only Black prosecutor in the federal district, which spans the largely rural northern half of the state.

Last year, flipping through a new book—“The History of the District Court in the Northern District of Iowa (1882-2020)”—Ms. Wright turned to Appendix A. It included a list of 88 assistant U.S. attorneys who had worked in the prosecutor’s office over more than a century. To her shock and dismay, her name was missing.

The book was published by the Northern District of Iowa Historical Society, a volunteer group. Ms. Wright, who had never been a member but had ordered two copies of the book, fired off an email pointing out the omission.

Within minutes, she received an apology from C.J. Williams, a federal judge and historical society member, who called the omission “clearly inadvertent.” Ms. Wright’s name was the only one left off the list of assistant U.S. attorneys that had surfaced so far.

“Our focus was on the content of the book, not the appendices,” Judge Williams wrote in an email. …

In a state of agitation, Ms. Wright sent another email to the history society to convey “shock and disappointment” and to demand action. She asked that an online version of the book be updated, that two corrected hard-bound copies be printed for her at no cost and that notices run in Iowa newspapers that the book had been fixed.

The omission, Ms. Wright wrote, “erased my name from history.”

The online version of the book was corrected, but Ms. Wright was told it was “cost prohibitive” to print a new hardback version. No notice would be forthcoming in newspapers.

She was not assuaged.

“I’m not going to be forgotten,” Ms. Wright said in an interview. “This country has ignored Black women—Black people—and we don’t find out about our history until years later.”

She was having lunch in a restaurant in Cedar Rapids, where the Northern District is based and where, for all of Black History Month in February, she had paid $4,000 for a billboard at the top of a downtown building. It featured a picture of her in a white dress with arms crossed, and the message: “Stephanie Johnson Wright, First African American Assistant U.S. Attorney, Northern District of Iowa (1994-2018).” …

No more than 100 copies of the book are in print, and it’s shelved in only a handful of libraries in the Midwest that are not open to the public.

“You saw the movie ‘Hidden Figures’?” she said, referring to the Oscar-nominated film about three Black female mathematicians at NASA in the 1960s. “I didn’t even know those women existed. I think there are probably a lot of people who were the first in their families, the first in this country. But they decided they wouldn’t speak up. But by doing that, you are preventing someone else who can be encouraged and inspired.” …

She wrote that she did not believe her omission from the history book was an accident. She claimed “intentional discrimination” against her as a Black woman, which she said was part of a pattern that began when she was an assistant U.S. attorney.

Eventually, they print up some corrected pages with adhesive backing with her name on it and paste them into the books in libraries.

The tone of this story is a little light-hearted. Even Trip Gabriel appears to be tiring of the Outraged Black Woman Discovers Another Manifestation of Systemic Racism beat.

[Comment at Unz.com]

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