Women In The Civil Rights Movement

Decent Essays
Over five decades have passed since the passage of the famous 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the end of institutionalized discrimination and racism. The Civil Rights Movement, in many ways was a great success for all African Americans and other “minorities” in the United States and around the world. Yet, when asked about this tremendously important period, most people – black and white of all academic backgrounds – will know only little about it. Most definitely, however, the people asked will know one name: Martin Luther King, Jr. Generally, as Fred Powledge puts it, “in the minds of untold numbers of Americans, for example, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was the civil rights movement. Thought it up, led…show more content…
In contrast to their male counterparts, female activists were mainly mainly seen as “followers” male leadership and their high participation numbers were, according to many, due to demographics. That is to say, after waves of migration in the 1940s and 1950s many black men left the South, specifically the Mississippi Delta, in order to find work in the industrial centers of the North, leaving behind the old, children, and especially women (“Men Led, But Women Organized” 3). Albeit, as Charles M. Payne points out, “even when one looks at families where both husband and wife are present, the wives were far more likely to participate,” interestingly, “in the years inbetween [sic!], roughly thirty to fifty…women were three to four times more likely than men to participate” (“Men Led, But Women Organized” 2). Hence, demographics as the reason for higher participation numbers of women are proved to be wrong. But what then caused women to take part in civil rights activities more frequently than men? According to Ella Baker, this question is relatively easy to answer: “Men didn’t do the things that had to be done…They [the women] were the people who kept the spirit going…” (“Ella Baker and Models of Social Change” 210). However, there has been a noticeable shift in the portrayal and perception of female activists in the last two or three decades. How come, one might ask? First of all, the primarily black women, who participated in the Civil Rights Movement began to speak out about their roles in the African American freedom struggle themselves, examples of that would be Jo Ann Robinson, who published her autobiography in 1986, 30 years after the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Secondly, also politicians, academics, and journalists started to recognize the significance of women like, Jo Ann Robinson, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, and others,
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