Afro women’s: A Pillar of Civil Rights

I am not sure when my activism started, but I recall being active in high school and at the church group. After graduating from university I worked at a non-governmental organization that aims for an equal society. I think this is when I started to be more aware of inequality and violation around me.

Years after, when I returned to Bilwi my hometown, I joined the Nidia White Women Movement and the Nicaribbean Black People Association. I also was one of the producers of a local TV programme that debated several topics related to human and civil rights. These spaces became my activism school.

Currently, I am a member of the Women Network in Finland, which is a virtual and physical space that divulges and visualizes projects executed by Latinoamerican and Caribbean women living in Finland. We organize workshops, discussions; participate and coordinate protests, performance, and sit-ins. I am content to continue with my activism because it allows me to interact and learn more.

My experience probably is nor far different from many other black women who played a pivotal and heroic role in the struggle of civil rights and the rise of black movements by being activists. Once they were aware of their powers and the liberation of themselves, they used them to depict, expand, and let them be an alliance for the fight.

In the 1950s, after almost a century of segregation, inequality, discrimination, and other acts of violence, a group of black women and men started the Civil Rights Movement in the United States of America. They organized boycotts, sit-ins, and pacific protests. For instance, in 1961, the Freedom Rides, and 1963, the March on Washington.

Ella Baker, Josephine Baker, Ruby Bridges, Johnnie Carr, Angela Davis, Thelma Glass, McCree Harris, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Shirley Sherrod, Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, etc. are some figures of the Civil Rights Movement. These women also had to fight the unequal treatment they got from the black males in the movement.

Besides the above list, others also played a crucial role as strategists and advocates in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States of America and other countries. 

Septima Clark (1898-1987)

She was an educator in South Carolina who evolved the Citizenship Schools, which taught and motivated Black Americans to learn literature, education, and citizenship rights to empower their communities. She also fought for equal pay for black teachers and was one of the persons who accompanied Martin Luther King Jr. to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

Amelia Boyton (1911-2015 )

She was a key figure of the Civil Rights in Selma, Alabama and one of the leaders who convinced MLK Jr. to march in from Selma to Montgomery on March 7th, 1965. This is known also as “Bloody Sunday”. On the Edmund Pettus Bridge, over the Alabama River in Selma, the protesters were attacked by policemen, Boyton was brutally beaten.

In 1964, she ran for a seat in Congress, being the first African American woman and first female Democratic candidate from Alabama to postulate for this position.

Dorothy Height ( 1912-2010)

She is known as the “Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement”. Her activism started in the 1930s, which advocated for women’s rights such as unemployment, illiteracy and voter participation. For over 40 years, she was the president of the National Council for Negro Women and one of the organizers of the March on Washington. Moreover, she had a big influence on leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis.

Dorothy Height with Eleanor Roosevelt, 1960

Jo Ann Robinson (1912-1992)

She was a teacher who became an active member of the movement after having been attacked verbally by a bus driver in 1949. Disgusted by this action Ann led the Women’s Political Council, which focused their work on the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Following the arrest of Rosa Parks, Ann immediately acted by distributing over 50,000 flyers calling for a boycott on the 5th of December, which was a success. 

Daisy Bates(1914-1999)

Bates was an activist, journalist, and publisher in Arkansas. Together with her husband, she founded The Arkansas Press, which was published on May 9, 1941, and mainly supported African American stories and advocated civil rights. In 1954, the Supreme Court landmarked segregation as unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education. Bates played a significant role in the desegregation at schools, after this decision by mentoring and organizing the “Little Rock Nine” students to integrate Little Rock Central High School in 1957.

Georgia Gilmore (1920-1990)

She was a cook at the National Lunch Company who was fire for participating in the bus boycott. She embraced her talent to cook from home and support the movement. She founded the Club From Nowhere, which motivated African women to cook and bake goods to be sold outside their houses and at protests gathering. The fund from this action was used to support the bus resistance.

Ruby Dee (1922-2014)

Dee was an actress who used her profession to outspeak the subservient roles given to African Americans in the film industry. Together with Ossie Davis, her husband supported the movement through the arts and demonstrated positive portraits of African Americans in their works. She also was one of the masters of  ceremony at the March on Washington.

Corretta Scott King (1927-2006)

While studying music at the Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, she experienced segregation, which motivated her to join the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). She married Martin Luther King Jr. in 1953, to whom she gave her support as a wife and mother. However, she continued her quest for civil rights in and out of the United States of America.

Claudette Colvin (1935-)

She was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Claudette’s parents didn’t own a car, so every day she depended on a bus to get to and from school. One day in 1955, at age 15, she resisted giving up her seat on a crowded Montgomery bus to a white woman who was standing ( by law, Claudette supposed to give her seat, even though she was sitting in the black section). For this act, she was forcibly removed from the bus and arrested.

A year later, she gave her testimony at the court case Gayle v. Browder, which, intended to end transportation segregation in the state.

Diane Nash (1938-)

Nash got involved in the civil movements in Nashville, Tennessee, while studying at the Fisk University. She was a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), organizer of the Freedom Rides where Martin Luther King Jr. participated.

Author: Women Wheel

Women Wheel a community online that develops different women topics. Here we cover my experiences and others based on sexuality, gender, violence, culture, climate change, literature, womanhood, feminism, and decolonization stories that will link us together regardless of where you live, age, and race. Our wheel is durable and resistant, the same as the women’s fight, voices, and actions. Join the movement of the wheel!

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