Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Women in the Civil Rights Movement

It is always important to make known about the heroic, courageous women of the civil rights movement. The truth is that black women have had a leadership role in every era of the black freedom movement. They have taken care of families, funded people's livelihoods, and sacrificed a great deal for black people in general. The contributions of black women from 1954 to 1968 will be shown here. Thousands and millions of women were involved in the Civil Rights Movement. During the early 1950’s, Gwendolyn Brooks not only wrote great literature. She was active in promoting the civil rights of black Americans. She allied with the NAACP, progressive activists, and Black Power activists later on. Charlotta Spears Bass promoted not only progressive politics, but liberation for black people. In 1952, Bass became the first African-American woman nominated for Vice President, as a candidate of the Progressive Party. Her platform called for civil rights, women's rights, an end to the Korean War, and peace with the Soviet Union. Bass's slogan during the vice presidential campaign was, "Win or lose, we win by raising the issues." She lived to be 95 and passed away at the year of 1969. Ella Baker and Septima Clark during the 1950’s and beyond stood up for our rights. They are the Mothers of the modern Civil Rights Movement. They have fought for justice since the early 20th century. They have organized programs, inspired the youth, and promoted grassroots organizing. Ella Baker would work in the SCLC and in SNCC. Septima Clark would work in South Carolina to promote voter registration, education in generation, and the fight against Jim Crow.

Ella Baker and Septima Clark are just as important in the movement for social justice as are Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X are. Mamie E. Bradley-Mobley was the mother of Emmett Till. She spoke nationwide and spoke in favor of racial justice. By the time of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Claudette Clovin and Rosa Parks were already activists fighting for change. They refused to sit down in a segregated seat. They worked with lawyers and others in order to make the boycott successful. Women led that movement too. They were leaders in the carpools who allowed people to travel without buses. Jo Ann Gibson Robinson was one black woman leader who organized as well. She wrote a book entitled, “The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It” about the humiliations that black people faced while riding the buses. Black people were about 75 to 80 of the total ridership. Black people from the North were arrested, harassed, and shot dead for refusing to move to the back of the bus. Robinson was part of the Women’s Political Council to stand up for human rights. Robinson was involved with other to start the MIA newsletter to help people. The MIA (or the Montgomery Improvement Association) had the President of Dr. King. Thelma McWilliams Glass helped to organize the boycott too. Georgia Gilmore (February 5, 1920 - March 9, 1990) was a cook and midwife who supported the Montgomery Bus Boycott by raising hundreds of dollars a week through the "Club From Nowhere" which sold sandwiches, chicken dinners, and baked goods to boycott supporters. Her home was often a meeting place for the Montgomery Improvement Association. Tons of black women worked hard in the movement. NAACP southeast regional secretary Ruby Hurley helped Autherine Lucy to go into the University of Alabama during the late 1950’s.

Daisy Gatson Bates was the President of the Arkansas NAACP and she was involved in helping the Little Rock Nine children to integrate in Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Daisy Bates worked hard in advancing civil rights from being a journalist to being involved in numerous demonstrations for justice. Mrs. A. L. Mothershed was the mother of the Little Rock Nine member Thelma Mothershed. Septima Clark in the late 1950’s organized Citizenship Schools to give people economic and political opportunities. Coretta Scott King was an activist too who promoted an end to nuclear weapons, peace, women’s rights, and civil rights. Lorraine Hansberry was an activist who fought housing discrimination and oppression throughout the 1950’s and the 1960’s. The 1960’s saw the growth of black activism from women. Ella Baker was the Mother of SNCC. She inspired the youth to go in independent action not following a centralized leadership. One of the leaders of the sit-in movement was Diana Nash who worked in Nashville. She was from Chicago and attended Fisk University in Nashville. SNCC was founded heavily by the youth. It was heavily diverse and spread nationally. One of the greatest organizers of SNCC was Ruby Doris Robinson who was a secretary and fought for gender and racial equality. Sexism existed in many sectors of the Civil Rights Movement and that is wrong. Likewise, many in the Civil Rights Movement rejected sexism as sexism is evil. Black women continued to protest, were involved in the Freedom Rides (many women involved included Jean Thompson, Doratha 'Dodie' Smith-Simmons, Catherine Burks Brooks, Carol Silver, and others) ,and supported justice. By the early 1960’s, black women graduated from previously segregated universities like Charlayne Hunter at the University of Georgia. Vivian Moore also was in the University of Alabama. Gloria Richardson and Fannie Lou Hamer fought for freedom too. Gloria Richardson wanted equality and Cambridge, Maryland and Fannie Lou Hamer from Mississippi spoke about the injustices in America (and she wanted change). Also, singers like folkorist Bernice Johnson Reagon promoted Freedom Songs to promote cohesiveness, and solidarity in the freedom struggle. Shirley Verrett was a famous opera singer who sang the song, "Oh Freedom." The Freedom Singers were known for singing the song "Woke up This Morning" to promote freedom. The Staple singers also performed "Freedom Highway" nationwide back in 1965. One great singer who expressed black frustration at injustice and love of Blackness was Nina Simone. She was a friend of Lorraine Hansberry and so many other people too. Nina Simone taught all of us not only about musical talent, but about a consciousness in favor of justice for our people. She influenced both the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement.

Unita Blackwell from SNCC working in Freedom Summer inspired many people worldwide. During the Selma, movement, Amelia Boynton was a leader who stood up against racism and police brutality. After Selma, thousands and millions of black people had the right to vote via the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Annie Maude Williams of Selma, Alabama on August 10, 1965 celebrated her voting eligibility certificate. In Alabama alone, black registration grew from 66,000 in 1960 to 250,000 by 1966. One of the most intelligent theological experts and civil rights activists was Pauli Murray. She opposed Jim Crow and fought for civil rights and women’s rights. As a lawyer, Murray argued for civil rights and women's rights. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Chief Counsel Thurgood Marshall called Murray's 1950 book, States' Laws on Race and Color, the "bible" of the civil rights movement. Murray served on the 1961–1963 Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, being appointed by John F. Kennedy. In 1966 she was a co-founder of the National Organization for Women. Another co-founder of NOW was a black woman named Anna Arnold Hedgeman. She promoted civil rights and she was a friend of the legendary hero Dorothy Height. Dorothy Height worked for decades involving justice. Black women were heavily involved in the Black Panther movement, the Black Power movement in general, and in the anti-Vietnam War movement.

For example, the National Black Anti-War Anti-Draft Union (NBAWADU) was spearheaded by Gwendolyn Patton. She opposed the Vietnam War and Western occupation and domination of Third World nations. Patton was born in Detroit in 1943 and she was involved in the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott as being in the MIA or the Montgomery Improvement Association. She was part of SNCC and the LCFO or the Lowndes County Freedom Organization. She supported Black Power as a way to transform the black community positively. Black women were involved heavily in anti-war rallies of the 1960’s. Many black women in the Black Panther party were Assata Shakur, Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Davis, Elaine Brown, Barbara Easley-Cox, Charlotte Hill O’Neal, Tarika Matilaba, Judy Hart, Chaka Khan, and tons of black women who wrote articles, organized programs, helped the poor and the elderly, and lived out their lives in fighting for human liberation. One of the greatest activist from SCLC was a black woman named Dorothy Cotton. She was one of the greatest leaders of the SCLC too. She was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Dorothy Cotton can sing too. Cotton’s close work with Septima Clark and Esau Jenkins, via both the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, created a grassroots movement in rural southern areas during the Civil Rights Movement. She came into Olso to celebrate Dr. King receiving his Nobel Peace Prize. She worked in the Birmingham Movement of 1963. She worked in the Memphis sanitation workers movement in 1968 too. Cotton currently resides in Ithaca, New York. Black women involved in the 1968 sanitation movement also include Maxine Smith, Cornelia Crenshaw, Tarlease Mathews, (who is also known as Mrs. Adjua Abi Naantaanbuu later in her life). New voices of literature and activism were shown by Sonia Sanchez and Nikki Giovanni. Sonia as born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1934. She worked for CORE during the early 1960's when she met Malcolm X. She became a great advocate of black culture and literature. Nikki Giovanni was born in 1943 at Knoxville, Tennessee. The Civil Rights Movement and Black Power movements inspired her early poetry that was collected in Black Feeling, Black Talk (1967),which sold over ten thousand copies in its first year, Black Judgement (1968), selling six thousand copies in three months. So, there are tons of contributions that black women made throughout the black freedom struggle in general. We honor their service to humanity and we are always inspired by their heroism. Black women are heroes.

By Timothy

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