Saturday, February 1, 2014

On Women in the Civil Rights Movement

On Women in the Civil Rights Movement: When people think of women in the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 to 1968, they generally reference Rosa Parks. Indeed, she was a monumental figure. Her actions in December 1955 essentially sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which Revs. MLK, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy helped organize along with local NAACP leader E. D. Nixon. But the Civil Rights Movement's traditional narrative has largely excluded women. Pictured above are Fannie Lou Hamer (left) and Ella Baker (right). As women of color, they endured what black feminists labeled "double discrimination" (sex and race). Hamer became particularly well-known for her work in Mississippi's "Freedom Summer" Project, which represented a massive attempt at black voter registration in 1964. Also, her political efforts with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) almost derailed Lyndon Johnson's presidential nomination at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Alternatively, Baker played a subtle yet vital role in numerous civil rights organizations (NAACP, SCLC, and SNCC). Her core philosophy centered on "participatory democracy," which not only called for broad-based  and direct democratic participation, but also required a strong public sphere to increase governmental transparency. Although Baker purposely avoided the spotlight, her impact on the Civil Rights Movement proved far-reaching.

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