Black Women in History

Thanks to our fantastic Doris Duke Conservation Scholars for contributing sporadic blog posts this semester. Here are some things they’re working on and thinking about.

Black Women in History

By Krista Albu

Black women have been some of the most powerful assets to the civil rights movement, yet there is a small minority of people who know about them. I remember the first time I ever learned about women other than Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. It was a very encouraging moment and is something that I will forever cherish. The first women I learned about besides Parks and Tubman were Ella Baker, Septima Clark, and Daisy Bates.

Ella Baker, known as the God Mother of the Civil Rights Movement, was a fearless leader. She helped create many different organizations that promoted black awareness to building up their own economy. She actively sought out black people in the South to join the NAACP when the KKK was at an all time high, and is also behind many of the sit-ins conducted in the South. She was also a huge advocate for everyone knowing that they are leaders. She helped pave the path for the civil rights movement, where the Queen of the Civil Rights Movement, Septima Clark, came in.

Septima Clark, the Queen of the Civil Rights Movement, was a bold woman whose focus was education for everyone. She not only taught many black people how to read and write, but she also taught them how to vote and utilize services available to them. She also helped campaign to get more black teachers in schools, and not only did she accomplish that, she helped promote more black principals too. She went on to fight for equal teacher pay, and even taught at a school for Southern whites on how to change their ways. She went on to teach and inspire many people for years to come with her resilience. Another resilient woman in the civil rights movement was Daisy Bates.

One of my favorite women to learn about was Daisy Bates. From being called the n-word and humiliated by the local butcher, and finding out her mother was killed by a group of white men, Bates’ childhood was rough. But because of these tragic events, the spark inside her to fight for black rights and desegregation was bright. One of the things that started off her activism career is when she and her husband started the newspaper State Press that promoted social rights and economics for black people. After that, she went on to become the president of the NAACP. Under her presidency, she filed many lawsuits like Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education. After her presidency, she went on to be the leader of The Little Rock Nine. Bates was their support system, for the students and the families, and came up with protection plans.

Bates, and the other fearless women who’ve fought for black rights often get overlooked. In this day and age, black girls and women need to be taught about these brave leaders in our history, so that they too, understand that it is possible to be courageous leaders. The easiest way to keep oppressed people in the state that they are in is to make them feel like they’re the first to do it. The feeling of being a ‘trailblazer’ is a difficult feeling that a lot of women face, especially women of color. Remembering these heroines during the difficult times that the new administration will foster can help women everywhere build up the courage to help make change happen.

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