With Black History Month behind us and Women’s History month coming to an end, it is an appropriate time to call attention to the intersectional pioneers who deserves more credit than they may have gotten.
In this past month I have researched a few of the women in the struggle for human rights. They each have their own story and we do not want those stories to be lost. One common trait they had in common, regardless of their cause or profession, was their burning determination. I learned a lot from their personal stories and gained a few insights. Most all the women that were reported on, fought for several causes. When slavery was abolished, they demanded the vote and control over their bodies, then them wanted equal rights in the workplace; they did not give up!
This speaks to the lesson number one; when these women spoke out they become stronger. Activism itself, seemed to generate power and it can become contagious. Diane Nash, the civil rights activist from the 60s, said “There is a power in each of us that we do not realize until we take responsibility.”
"In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma" by Bernard LaFayette Jr. and Kathryn Lee Johnson
"From Selma to Montgomery: The Long March to Freedom" by Barbara Harris Combs
"Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65" by Taylor Branch
"Walking with the Wind" by John Lewis with Michael D’Orso
"An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America" by Andrew Young
"Beware of Limbo Dancers: A Correspondent’s Adventures with the New York Times" by Roy Reed
"Bending Toward Justice" by Gary May
"My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr." by Coretta Scott King
Selma (2014) Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the South, discrimination was still rampant in certain areas, making it very difficult for blacks to register to vote. In 1965, an Alabama city became the battleground in the fight for suffrage. Despite violent opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his followers pressed forward on an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, and their efforts culminated in President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Available on Amazon Video, iTunes.
Selma Lord Selma (1999) A Disney film telling the story of a young school girl who is inspired by Dr. King, and how she and a white friend get involved in the movement. Available on DVD.
Articles on the March
Information on SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee)
Information on DCVL (Dallas County Voters League)
Information on Literacy Tests
Information on the Voting Rights Act of 1965
Below are the post webinar discussion material and articles for further reading on the topic of Black Women and Activism. If you have an article to recommend on this topic, please contact [email protected]
Post Webinar Discussion Materials
Purpose: These questions and exercises are designed to help you turn this information into strategic, organizing tools.
- Have each participant answer each question in turn.
- Have a scribe capture the information.
- Review the answers to each question, take time to see where you agree/disagree/need clarity, etc. Can you create a statement from the information? Are there objectives or goals you can tease out? They don´t have to be definitive (not likely in the first round) but should be a clear starting point.
Think about these questions beforehand, answer as a group after the presentation.
- What is activism? What does it mean to you?
- What is its goal or objective?
- What can it accomplish?
- Is activism connected to mainstream politics? If so, how? If not, why? And what might we do to connect them?.
- Why do you think you've never heard this history before?
- How has this information changed your understanding of activism?
- How will the information inform what you do politically?
- What next steps can you take as an individual? As a group?
I would recommend reading through this thorough middle school Civil Rights simulation to find some exercises to do with your group
The Montgomery Bus Boycott: Organizing Strategies and Challenges
Ella Baker, A Political Organizers Organizer
Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement
DREAM Act Organizing
Repairers of the Breach
Moral Mondays Campaign
“You can't negotiate until you fight”, Rev. William Barber a leader of the Moral Mondays Movement
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party
Zinn Education Project
Know-Want to Learn-Learned Charts
Paula A. Johnson, born in 1959, Brooklyn, N.Y. native, is a cardiologist, researcher, professor and public-health expert. She is a product of the New York public school system and a graduate of Radcliffe College at Harvard University. Johnson continued her studies at Harvard, successfully completing her studies with an M.D. and M.P.H (Master of Public Health) in 1985.  Her entire career reflects these two pursuits.
In September 2016, Doctor Johnson became the 14th President of Wellesley College and the first African American to hold this position. The appointment is a testament to her qualifications, international reputation and commitment to improving the lives of women. Wellesley chose her to empower and lead the next generation of Wellesley graduates and those beyond. This achievement is of note when one considers the history of Black Americans having been denied education. Reading and writing were punishable with death, yet African American women like Paula Johnson have led by achieving academic excellence, indeed teaching. Johnson also notes that she has been successful by taking “less traditional routes”.Read more
Ruby Nell Bridges Hall (born September 8, 1954) is an American civil rights activist. She was the first African-American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis in 1960.
Ruby Bridges grew up on the farm that her parents and grandparents sharecropped in Mississippi. She came into the public view at age 6, in 1960. Her parents responded to a request from the NAACP and volunteered her to participate in the integration of the New Orleans school system. They was so much difficulty surrounding her admission that a child psychiatrist, Robert Coles, volunteered to provide counseling to Bridges during her first year. The Bridges family also suffered for their decision to send her to William Frantz Elementary. Her father lost his job, the grocery shop would no longer let them shop there. Her grandparents, who were sharecroppers in Mississippi, were turned off their land. However, it was noted that many others in the community, both black and white, showed support in a variety of ways. Some white families continued to send their children to Frantz despite the protests and boycott. A neighbor provided her father with a new job, and local people walked in support behind the federal marshals' car on the trips to school.
Ruby Bridges Hall, lives in New Orleans with her husband, Malcolm Hall. They have four sons. She is now chair of the Ruby Bridges Foundation, which she formed in 1999 to promote "the values of tolerance, respect, and appreciation of all differences". Describing the mission of the group, she says, "racism is a grown-up disease and we must stop using our children to spread it.”
In October 2006, the Alameda Unified School District in California dedicated a new elementary school to Ruby Bridges, and issued a proclamation in her honor, and in November that year she was honored in the Anti-Defamation League's Concert Against Hate. On July 15, 2011, Bridges met with President Barack Obama at the White House, and while viewing the Norman Rockwell painting on display he told her, "I think it's fair to say that if it hadn't been for you guys, I might not be here and we wouldn't be looking at this together.” In 2014, a statue of Bridges was unveiled in the courtyard of William Frantz Elementary School.Read more