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Celebrating a fashion icon: Lois K Alexander Lane

12 October 2018 by Sarah

Lois K Alexander Lane. Credit: Courtesy of Susan McNeill and the Estate of Robert H. McNeill

We are honoured to have a guest blog from Joyce Bailey, daughter of the late Lois K Alexander Lane who is celebrated on our Black Achievers Wall at the Museum.

As a young girl, Lois K Alexander would look in boutique store windows and sketch the clothes she liked. She was clearly gifted, but not allowed to go in the stores to buy anything because of her race.  She later set out to dispel the myth ‘that Blacks were new found talent in the fashion industry’ and studied for a Master’s Degree from New York University. From there, her career in fashion was unstoppable. Read more about the incredible Lois K Alexander Lane, with thanks to her family:

“My mother was born Lois Marie Kindle in Little Rock, Arkansas on July 11, 1916. I have been told everyone knew she was destined for greatness.”

Lois K Alexander Lane. Credit: Courtesy of Susan McNeill and the Estate of Robert H. McNeill

“As a young girl, she would go downtown, look in boutique store windows and sketch the garments she favored. She was not allowed to go in the stores to buy anything because of her race. Mom purchased fabric and notions from the Five & Dime stores which she took home and produced garments similar to the ones she sketched. She made clothing for her mother, two sisters and her doll babies.

“Mom graduated from Virginia’s Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) and in the 1940s came to Washington, DC and began a career in the federal government. Starting as a clerk-stenographer for the War Department in 1942 and ending her tenure in 1978 as a Planning and Community Development Officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“In the 1960s, after being told by a New York University professor that Blacks had not made any contributions to the fashion world, she set out to dispel the myth that Blacks were new found talent in the fashion industry. She received her Master’s Degree from New York University. Her thesis title was “The Role of the Negro in Retailing in New York City from 1863 to the Present” (1963).

Lois K Alexander Lane, honoured on the Museum’s Black Achiever’s Wall

“Mom established two custom wear boutiques – one in Washington, DC (The Needle Nook) and one in New York City (Lois K. Alexander & Co.). In 1966, she founded the Harlem Institute of Fashion, an educational institute that offered free courses to students interested in dressmaking, millinery and tailoring. In the same year she founded the National Association of Milliners, Dressmakers and Tailors.

“In 1979, she founded The Black Fashion Museum (BFM) in New York City, committing the rest of her life to telling the world about the centuries of contributions women and men of the African Diaspora have made to fashion and design.”

Find out more about our Black Achievers Wall as well as all the free events we have lined up for Black History Month in the UK this October.

10 Black Women Achievers celebrated in Museum

8 March 2018 by Richard

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock. Space Scientist; STFC fellow for public outreach. Photographed in Astrium EAD’s semi-anechoic (satellite) testing chamber, in Portsmouth. Image © Max Alexander.

Here at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, we have added 10 new Black women achievers on to our Black Achievers Wall this March as part of the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage.

The new additions include an inspirational list of women from various professions and backgrounds who have been – and are – pioneers.

From the first Black woman to have a film produced by a major Hollywood studio to the first Black woman to sit in the cabinet of the UK government, these achievers have set the bar for future generations to aspire to.

We are also pleased to announce two Liverpool based achievers, Michelle Charters, CEO of the Kuumba Imani Centre and Councillor Anna Rothery, Mayoral Lead for Equalities, who continue to support the BAME communities in the city and actively fight ongoing discrimination and prejudice.

The full list is:

  • Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock

Scientist, educator and science advocate. Maggie Aderin-Pocock is an honorary research fellow in University College London’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. In 2009 she received an MBE for her services to science and education. In 2014 she became co-presenter of the long-running TV programme The Sky at Night.

  • Baroness Valerie Amos

Born in British Guiana (now Guyana), she became the first Black woman to sit in the UK Cabinet when Secretary of State for International Development in 2003. She served as UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator and in 2015 became Director of SOAS University of London

  • Michelle Charters

Community Activist and CEO of Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre in Toxteth, Liverpool   The multi-purpose centre was the vision of the Liverpool Black Sisters, an organisation formed in the 1970’s to address the many forms of discrimination experienced by the Black community. She is the Founding Chair of the Merseyside Black History Month Group and first Black woman to be appointed a Trustee of the Everyman & Playhouse Theatres in Liverpool

  • Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm

    Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm. Brooklyn born politician and educator who became the first Black US congresswoman. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Brooklyn born politician and educator who became the first Black US congresswoman. A founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and National Women’s Political Caucus. In 1972 she campaigned for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

  • Lois K. Alexander Lane

Arkansas born founder of the Harlem Institute of Fashion (1966) and the Black Fashion Museum in New York City (1979). The Institute offered free courses on dressmaking, millinery and tailoring. Lane wrote Blacks in the History of Fashion (1982) which dispelled the myth that Black people were newcomers to the fashion industry.

  • Wangari Maathai

Internationally renowned Kenyan environmental activist and politician. Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement empowering local communities to work together to combat de-forestation and protect their environment and their future. In 2004, she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, for ‘her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace’.

  • Zanele Muholi

Photographer and visual activist. Zanele Muholi aims to use her photography to effect social change. An ardent advocate of LGBT+ communities everywhere, she has become known globally with her series of pioneering portrait photography of South Africa’s LGBT+ communities. Her work is represented in museums and collections around the world.

  • Euzhan Palcy

Martinique born film director, writer and producer. The first Black director to win a French César award for the acclaimed 1983 film Sugar Cane Alley (Rue Cases Nègres). In 1989 she was the first Black woman to have a film produced by a major Hollywood studio. The film, A Dry White Season, looked at the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa

  • Paulette Randall

London born theatre and television director. A former Artistic Director of the Black led Talawa Theatre Company; Paulette Randall has directed and produced numerous productions, including collaborating on the spectacular opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. She received an MBE in 2015 for her services to drama.

  • Anna Rothery

Labour Councillor for Princes Park Ward in Liverpool since 2006. Anna Rothery has been active in promoting participation of BAME (Black Asian and Minority Ethnic) communities in civic life. She became the first Liverpool Councillor to speak on the floor at the United Nations in 2012 and was made Mayoral Lead for Equalities with specific responsibility for race equality in 2017.

Euzhan Palcy. Martinique born film director, writer and producer. In 1989 she was the first Black woman to have a film produced by a major Hollywood studio, A Dry White Season, which looked at the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Image © Presidence de la République _ P. Segrette.



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We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.