MAKERS Profile

Loretta Ross

Feminist Organizer

In this video

Human and women's rights activist Loretta Ross shares how heartbreaking events earlier in life led her to stand up and become a prominent voice for reproductive justice, especially, and proudly, among women of color.
Human and women's rights activist Loretta Ross co-founded and served as National Coordinator of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, a network that organizes women of color in the reproductive justice movement. In fact, Ross is one of the creators of the term "Reproductive Justice," which envelops human rights and social justice into one movement. In 2004,Ross served as National Co-Director of the March for Women’s Lives in Washington D.C. It became the largest protest march in U.S. history with more than one million participants.   Ross's nearly forty years of social justice activism reaches also includes being the Founder and Executive Director of the National Center for Human Rights Education (NCHRE) in Atlanta, Georgia, Program Research Director at the Center for Democratic Renewal/National Anti-Klan Network leading projects researching hate groups, launching the Women of Color Program for the National Organization for Women (NOW) in the 1980s, and leading delegations of women of color to many international conferences on women's issues and human rights. She was also one of the first African American women to direct a rape crisis center in the 1970s.   Ross is the co-author of Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice and author of “The Color of Choice” chapter in Incite! Women of Color Against Violence published in 2006. She has also written extensively on the history of African American women and reproductive justice activism.

More From Loretta

Long History of Fighting to Control Our Bodies
Ross on the history of birth control and abortion within African American communities from slavery to modern times.

Few Choices for a Pregnant Teen
Ross recalls the emotional story of how she came to keep her child and how the injustices she experienced as a pregnant 14 year old planted the seed of feminism she would eventually follow.

Expelled for Being Pregnant
Ross on how her high school expelled her for being pregnant and deciding to keep her baby.

Finding the Rape Crisis Center
Ross on how she came to work at the first Rape Crisis Center which was in D.C. and how she came to understand that she was not alone in the abuse that had happened to her.

A Medical Nightmare and Class Action Law Suit
Ross recalls the extreme medical abuse she encountered as a 23 year old when her OBGYN refused to remove the Dalkon Shield IUD that had caused the sterilization of 700,000 women, including herself.

A New Paradigm: Reproductive Justice
Ross explains how she and a group of black women "spliced" reproductive rights and social justice together to create the term "reproductive justice" as a means to bring human rights to women in the U.S.

Reproductive Justice Went International
Ross on her surprise with the international interest in reproductive justice as a means to open the conversation about abortion in hostile environments.

How to Start a Rape Crisis Center
Ross on the pioneers that worked at the D.C. Rape Crisis Center and how the board deserves acknowledgement for being "true visionaries." 

History of Term "Women of Color"
Ross on how the term "Women of Color" came to be and how for her, it's a term she proudly embraces. 

"I'm Not A Feminist, But..."
Ross explains why she initially didn't want to associate herself with the feminist identity and how she finally decided she was a feminist while working at NOW.

Taking Down Hate with Kindness
Ross on how she realized she had a knack for bringing people together when she was given the responsibility to help people who had been in the Klan deflect from the Klan, and the unique experiences she had doing so.

An Unprecedented March
When Alice Cohan reached out to Ross to take part in the 2004 March for Freedom of Choice, Ross made a set of unprecedented requests for the involvement of SisterSong and women in color.