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Role of Women in the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements

8 pages
1933 words
Boston College
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During the Civil Rights Movement, women had a lot of significant roles from leading local civil rights organizations to act as lawyers on school segregation cases. The African-Americans fought for equal rights against exploitation, violence, and discrimination that existed in the 1950s. However, even with all the effort, they put in most of the attention and credit is focused on the men. Women attained a lot of achievements during the fight for civil rights amidst a lot of difficulties. In the fight for civil rights the male leaders organized protests in which women particularly black women were the main participants. The African American women played the main roles in both the local and national modern civil rights and black power movements.

The modern civil rights and black power movements started out because of a century-long of African American resistance and self-determination. All these impacted the lives of Americans from education, politics and even foreign policy. The African American women participated on all levels of the modern black freedom movement with some acting as strategists, leaders, activists, and theorists. Women made up a majority of the protesters, and they even outnumbered men in many groups. They gave shelter to civil rights participants, attended the mass meetings, and demonstrations more and regularly tried to vote.

The African American women worked with both the black men and white people who supported the cause. They also used their networks whether formal or informal in their pursuit of freedom. Organizations such as the Third World Womens Alliance and Black Womens United Front were created by the black power women to push their demands for economic, racial and gender justice. Only a few scholarly articles cover the womens contribution and the men popularly dominate the African American struggle for freedom. The women's participation in the freedom struggle redefined some of the concepts of leadership, politics, and protests.

There are a few scholarly articles available on women participation in the black freedom movement such that there is little known about very many other public figures. One of the few women covered is Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man which started a movement. The other notable woman is Coretta Scott king wife to Martin Luther King who dedicated her life to defending her husbands legacy. Coretta Scott king achieved this by having the Martin Luther King holiday. Rosa Parks became an advocate for racial justice for her defiance on an Alabama bus. She had planned and protested against sexual violence and racial discrimination in Alabama and nationally before the Montgomery Bus Boycott. However, even Parks was not the first one to protest against having a separate seating on public transport. African American women have a long-standing history of protests which dates back to the anti-lynching of Ida B. Rose Parks moved to Detroit after she was unable to find a job after a year of protesting. In the 1980 Rosa Parks started an institute of self-development to get young people to take part in the freedom movement. Rosa parks remained a dedicated activist who took part in protests for over sixty years. On the other hand, Coretta was a political activist even before she met Martin in the 1950s. It is said that she is the one who inspired her husband to take part in global peacemaking. Coretta was also a member of the womens international league for Peace and Freedom and Women Strike for Peace. After Martin Luther King was assassinated, she joined the anti-apartheid movement, and she even met President Ronald Reagan. She also drew attention to the HIV-AIDS crisis and black poverty and was keen on ending discrimination in LGBT communities. Coretta was a human rights activist for more than fifty years until she died in 2006.

A school teacher in South Carolina known as Septima Clark is another unsung heroine who was an activist for several decades. Hse helped push for the hiring of black teachers in segregated schools in Charleston in the 1920s. She also took part in the campaign to equalize black and white teachers salaries in the 1940s. Her membership in the NAACP made her lose the job, but she was got another job at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee. In Tennessee, she came up with citizenship schools which were a radical approach towards empowering southern blacks through voter-campaign and literacy campaigns. She was able to train over 25,000 people through her Citizenship schools and was very instrumental in registering of black voters in the South.

We might think that we understand the black womens efforts in the civil rights movement due to the national victories, but most of us dont understand. The history of womens participation is broad, and we need to locate the roots of the civil rights movement to understand it. In this regards, to understand the black struggles, it is important to shift our attention from a national movement to local battles in which women's contributions are more visible. In many towns across America, women gave up their lies, skills, and energies to local black freedom struggles. An example is Elna Spaulding who was a black elite from Durham, and she formed the women in action for prevention of violence who caused racial tensions in 1968. Mississippi which was well known for brutal racial violence had a lot of local efforts such as the older black women who were known as mamas of the black protest. There were understanding, outspoken and women who were willing to catch hell for the movement. Women were also active in the northern movements, and their efforts led to the Brown decision and direct action protests in the 1960s. The Black Power activists in Philadelphia were committed to organizing the society, and this meant that they had to work with the low-income earners who were mainly women. Local women such as Mattie Humphreys were instrumental in building the black people unity movement which was the first ever black power organization in the city.

There exists a huge debate over the relationship between the civil rights and black power movements. The main bone of contention is the ambiguity of the term Black Power which can be interpreted in many ways ranging from black separatism to revolutionary violence and black capitalism. There is also the misconception that black power was anti-white and violent. Black Power is also assumed to be completely northern because of the failures of the southern civil rights movement. The participation of women brings up this complexity.

In conclusion, the African American women played a great role towards ensuring that they have equal rights to those of the men. They aimed at the organization of the society. The women took part in protests that aimed at the attainment of their civil rights.

Women in Politics

The rights of the women and their political participation have highly been discussed. The discussion of women in power started in 1975 during the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).The main discussions that have taken place mainly concern on the importance of women having equal roles as the men in politics and the various measures that can be undertaken to increase the participation of women in politics. The temporary measures that have been considered to help in increasing the women political roles include quotas. Regardless of the increase in the New Rights conservative power the influence of women on the political systems has continued to increase. Women have taken positions in the Congress, the Supreme Court and in the presidential cabinet.

In politics, women can play a variety of roles such as being members of various political parties, members of the civil society, voters and as well as candidates and officeholders. In most of the Middle East countries such as Saudi Arab and the United Arab Emirates, the women have been denied the right to vote and vie for various positions in politics. In the past 50 years in countries where there has been the emergence of democracies women have been in a position to acquire the right to vote. In other countries where their democracy is more established women have had their legal rights preserve for almost 100 years. Most of the countries across the world have the right to be registered as a voter. In countries where the voter registration is not considered to be compulsory, there is always a big gap between the number of men and women who turn out to vote. The difference may be as a result of structural, social, cultural or legal barriers that exist within a country. The failure of women participation in politics has also been contributed by their household income, education, and age. According to research that was carried out by International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, the gap between the men and women participation in politics is reducing as compared to the period of post-World War 2.For example, in Norway, the women have started to outdo the men in the voting booths.

The women should be allowed the right to participate in politics and as well as join political parties of their choice. In the United States, the women have taken up several positions in the national offices. Several women stood up in the United Kingdom to vie for the Mp position. By the end of 2012, the average number of women who were in parliament had increased as compared to 2011 from 19.5%to 20.3%.

Despite women holding several positions in the national offices, they do not have a high level of participation at their local levels. The women have been underrepresented in leadership positions despite them being active in various civil society organizations. Different actions have been undertaken to ensure that the women have an equal opportunity as men in holding specific political positions. Transition processes, reconciliation, and peace have contributed significantly towards the provision of opportunities to the women.

According to past research that has been conducted most of the people across the world believe that women should be supported and encouraged to join politics. Recent surveys show that men and women think that women are supposed to be involved in political matters in a limited way so that they do not conflict with the norms associated with gender. Several reasons have resulted in women being considered suitable to hold different political positions. The women are working hard towards having a society that is vibrant and strong. The participation of women in politics has greatly been encouraged as it results in increased cooperating across political parties, peace and democracy which includes the desire to cater to the needs of the citizens. The women had a high possibility of voting democratically as compared to the men. Women and men held different views regarding issues that affected the women in general such as wage equity, and reproductive choice.

The women have been encouraged to participate in politics over time since their input has positively influenced a large number of policy issues and also the solutions to those issues. Genders tend to affect the matters that should be given the priority. In 1977 Carter appointed Bella Abzug to be the head of the planning commission of the National Womens Conference whereby his wife was also an active member. His appointment led to a great increase in the ability of the federal government to advocate for equal employment opportunities and not discriminating people according to their race and gender. In 1981 the first woman judge to the Supreme Court was appointed by President Reagan. When Anita Hill testified before this time, there were only two women in the Senate. After Anita Hill testified there...

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