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African American Women' s Fight For Equality
African American history has not been well documented yet their contribution to history is noteworthy. Struggles were widespread and the hopes of being equal were not well received for many year. Frequently slavery served as the foundation of this perception, which condoned some groups to reduce the value of others and thereby lessens their deserved treatment. The judgment felt by minority’s remains despite the fall of slavery and the supposed end of racism.
Regardless that society is past the Civil Rights and Women’s Movements often those roots still live in American culture and the manner in which it operates. One key area that society refuses to recognize became the basis for this article.
Many questions arose as I wrote. One questions I could not answer. Why are African American women not well recognized and documented in historical literature? Literature that depicts African American women’s effort in the movement remains sparse and much of noted documentation is reported as a part of the Civil Rights Movement. One must ask were African American women during this time not considered viable women?
Women’s Equality As Seen By African American Women
Despite being two separate movements, the Women’s Movement and Civil Rights Movement were felt by all African American women. Only this group of individuals can truly say that they fought for two movements simultaneously.
As said by Mary Church Terrell, “the only group in this country that has two such huge obstacles to surmount …both sex and race.” During a time of little tolerance for race and gender, African American women fought for women’s rights through the pretenses of the Civil Rights Movement.
Irrespective of African American women’s desire to lobby with other women, Caucasian women felt that this group of women may foil their efforts. Thereby African American women were excluded from participating in the effort. Literature reflects these claims since African American women’s contributions toward women’s equality were documented as part of the Civil Rights Movement.
African American Women To Remember
Regardless of the fact those African American women worked toward equality of all women. It is imperative to recall those that contributed during this era. Many of the women discussed below are not infamous in history, though worthy of remembering. Several of the women simultaneously stood for both, yet limited to being recognized for fighting for equality of African American’s.
Mary Church Terrell
Mary Church Terrell’s motto “lifting as we climb” was the first African American woman to serve on the Washington, DC school board. As the president of National Association Colored Women during 1896 to 1901, Mary became a highly influential woman.
A very famous woman, Harriet Tubman was born a slave. Later finding that her father was actually born a free man she felt that made her free as well. But she knew that the law would not support her freedom and fled in 1849. Once she landed upon her own freedom in the north, Harriet worked as a railroad conductor, allowing her to free over 300 slaves through the railroad. Her crusade to free endless slaves is known today as the “underground railroad.”
A backstage supporter, Ella Baker accompanied by Martin Luther King Jr and Thurgood Marshall fought for equality during the Civil Rights movement. She became a labor organizer and eventually became one of the leaders of the Southern Christian Conference. In the end Ella acknowledged that the movement was not all about the leaders but the effort put in by all.
Septima Clark was known as the “grandmother of the American Civil Rights Movement.” Initially she became a public figure on behalf of the rights for African Americans to vote. Septima became an activist of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and worked to educate illiterate adults. In addition to serving adults, she fought to have a petition signed that would allow African American’s to serve as principals in Charleston schools. Her efforts were recognized in 1979 when President Jimmy Carter awarded her the Living Legacy Award.
One of the most public iconic African American women remains to be Rosa Parks. Her infamous moment emerged on one long day in December of 1955. After boarding a public bus in Montgomery Alabama a white man also boarded. When Rosa refused to give her seat to this man a riot evoked. This riot lasted 381 day and when the riot ended Montgomery decided to desegregate public transportation and Rosa was commended for her courage. When asked about her actions she responded that she was just tired after a long day and did not intend on creating such uproar.
Fannie Lou Hamer
Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper was beaten and jailed in 1962 for trying to register to vote. Following that episode she became a voting rights activist. If you ever wondered about the quote, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” well that was coined by Fannie. Eventually Fannie became the Vice-Chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and ran for Congress in 1964 and 1965. Despite all her efforts and importance, Fannie was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in 1977.
Angela Davis, famous for being part of the radical group Black Panthers. She wrote about women’s rights and radical justice. Following the obtainment of a college degree she became a professor at University of California- Santa Cruz. However, due to her political views, former Governor Ronald Regan proclaimed that she would never work for a UC system again and had her removed.
Marian Wright Edelman
Marian Wright Edelman attended Yale Law School and graduated in 1963. She became the first African American women to enter the Mississippi state bar. In 1973 she funded the Children’s Defense Fund and advocated for children’s rights.
Alice Walker is best known for her work as the author and Pulitzer Prize winner of the Color Purple. Eventually turned into a movie starring Oprah, the Color Purple depicted the struggle of African American women. Despite being shot in the right by a BB gun as a child, Alice persevered to become the valedictorian of her high school and then attended Spelman College in Atlanta.
Vivian Malone Jones
Vivian Malone Jones defied the Governors laws in Alabama that excluded African American’s from attending certain colleges when she enrolled in the University of Alabama in 1963. Following her stand she worked in the Civil Rights division of the US Justice Department.
Why were African American women not part of the Women's Movement?
Inspirational women who fought fearlessly and hard during not one but two movements, African American women are truly underrepresented and underappreciated. A sizeable amount of the women above starred in the face of adversity and without fear in their hearts proceeded to battle for what they deserved and desired – equality.
In the end, equality can be sought out but not bestowed. Society continues to be a great deliverer of hypocrisy, even campaigning about change and yet it is as shallow as the words that are spoken.
African American women – had to and in some ways still do – fight against adversities for being African American and for being a woman.
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