Women + MLK + Civil Rights

I feel that this post is fitting for a day set aside for Martin Luther King, Jr. 

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Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer of Ruleville, Mississippi, being her usual self…a badass. (Photo courtesy of NBC News)

Most Americans who are familiar with the Civil Rights era refer to Rosa Parks as the most pivotal female within the movement. She was crucial, of course, but she was not the first black woman to take a stand–or a sit–for her race. Claudette Colvin, a teenage girl from Alabama, preceded Parks. She and the court case following her stance was not publicized, however, because she was pregnant and single. AKA she would not have portrayed the movement in the correct light given the societal norms.

Other than Rosa and Claudette, more women were taking care of business behind the scenes:

  • Ella Baker was a charismatic labor organizer and longtime leader in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She believed the movement should not place too much emphasis on leaders.
  • Septima Poinsette Clark, often called the “queen mother” of civil rights, was an educator and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People activist decades before the nation’s attention turned to racial equality.
  • Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper, was beaten and jailed in 1962 for trying to register to vote. She co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and gave a fiery speech at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.
  • Vivian Malone Jones defied segregationist Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace to enroll in the University of Alabama in 1963 and later worked in the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department.

(Bullet points courtesy of NBC News)

Martin Luther King will always be the face of the Civil Rights Movement. He was innovative and a visionary. He was able to motivate those who felt they had nowhere to turn. Women within the movement were critical, but he was forefront. He deserves to be at the forefront. Keep in mind the silent group who accomplished incredible feats throughout these tumultuous years. Women participated in marches, freedom summers, bus boycotts, anything imaginable.

Go MLK and go WOMEN behind the movement that changed the world for the better.

This is not a rant

I took Women in American History this semester at my university. I’ve never been so excited to attend a lecture at 9 a.m. in the history of my education. My professor came with disclaimers:

“#1: I study the history of sex and sexuality. We will be discussing sex this semester. What choices you make in your personal life are your own. When I speak about sex, I am doing so historically.

#2: I study the history of medicine. We will be discussing medical issues, especially those related to reproduction and including contraceptives and abortion. Again, what choices you make in your personal life are your own. When I speak about these topics, I am doing so historically.

#3: Most importantly, what I say in class on medical history should never be taken as medical advice. On all matters of your physical or mental health, you should consult a medical doctor.”

I liked her before class even began. This class taught me about things I could have never learned from a textbook. Why is it that women never take the stage in history? Why is it that this is the Rosie the Riveter we know and love instead of the original? Why don’t people know about the women who were so integral during the Civil Rights movement?

I know that before this class, I wouldn’t have been able to answer any of these questions. Hell, I didn’t even know what ERA stood for. I’m grateful that I have found the feminist inside of me. (And I don’t look like this.)

Women deserve the opportunity to be equal in every aspect to a man. Sure, there are serious biological differences. That should never hinder a woman from accomplishing her individual goals nor should anyone (woman or man) criticize her for wanting to break the mold.