Women Leaders in the African American Civil Rights Movement in the US
It takes the courage and dedication of people to get positive changes in a country.
So that they occupied a place outside the conventional social norms of the whole university student body. So did the men. But with men, I think, we can just say, ‘Kiss my black ass’ and go on about our business. It wasn’t so clear to me that a woman could do the same thing.”
For instance, the Albany Movement had a woman leader who organized young people to attend demonstrations and meetings (Barnett 168). However, despite their paramount contributions, sometimes more than men “and it was women more than men” (Hendrickson 289), Black women remained invisible in reference to their recognition as leaders in the movement, except for a few such as Rosa Parks. Evidently, Black women were not under any male leaders’ directives, including the most influential male, Martin Luther King, a clear indication that they deserved recognition on their own. The Black women took their own initiatives. This is because they “shared a common desire for freedom from oppression” (Barnet 163) that made them have the courage to start their initiatives without relying on men directives. They were angered by the unjust segregation laws that made them victims of racialism, and unjust treatment by officers and in the public (McGuire 59). Hence, they took their own initiatives because they “wanted better treatment” (290) which they would get if they cooperated with the Black people in the movement. The key factors that left the Black women unrecognized or led to recognition of just a few of them as leaders are class, race and gender biases (Barnet 163). In terms of gender bias, focus on Civil Rights Movement research was on the elite Black male professionals such as Martin Luther King and ministers, not the women.
No written narrative can fully capture their cadences and thought patterns, the verbal and physical windows to their personalities and souls. Much more remains to be learned from them as leaders and as human beings who came to terms with a society where they might have succumbed to anger and immobilization caused by invisibility and marginalization. I, for one, am eager to hear more. I hope that my research encourages other academic researchers to expand work in the area of civil and human rights leadership.
Barnett, Bernice McNair. “Invisible Southern Black Women Leaders in the Civil Rights Movement: The Triple Constraints of Gender, Race, and Class”. Gender and Society, 7.2 (1993):162-182. Print.
Hendrickson, Paul, “1944-The Ladies Before Rosa: Let Us Now Praise Unfamous Women”. Rhetoric & Public Affairs 8. 2 (2005): 287-298. Print.
McGuire, Danielle L. “At the Dark End of the Street”. Black Women, Rape, and Resistance- A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. 40-67. Print.