Leadership Styles And Activism Of African American Women

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When asked to identify important leaders of the civil rights movement, the name that most often comes to one’s mind is Martin Luther King Jr. Others may mention James Forman, Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth, James Farmer, Andrew Young, or Bayard Rustin. Notably missing are the names of women leaders. Rarely would Ella Baker, Septima Clark, Gloria Richardson, Daisy Bates, or Fannie Lou Hamer be identified. The absence of the women leaders of the civil rights movement from history is not because there were not any, but because the type of leadership they performed is often overlooked in favor of the men leaders, due in part to gender bias. This paper will examine the leadership styles and activism of African-American women in the civil rights movement in comparison to the more widely-known and prominent male leaders. It challenges the notion that aside from a few well-known leaders, African-American women’s roles in the movement consisted solely of behind-the-scenes and unimportant clerical work that is incomparable to male leadership. By examining what constitutes leadership, this paper concludes that while some African-American women activists may exhibit typical leadership styles parallel to male leaders, many others carried out leadership in atypical forms. The assorted types of leadership and activism African-American women contributed to the movement are determined to be on the same level of influence as the male leaders’ contributions. What is Leadership? As a
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