Sample History Essay Paper on Black Women in the Civil Rights Movement

Historic Role and Contributions of Black Women in the Civil Rights Movement

The civil rights movement was a struggle and war for social justice, equality, and
diversity, of which feminism was such an important component that took place during the 50s
and 60s for Black Americans to fight for equal rights under the United States law. Amongst civil
rights movement impacted the fight for LGBT and women's rights (Robnett et al., 1996). Many
black women played important roles in the civil rights movement, from leading local civil rights
organizations to serve as lawyers on school segregation lawsuits. The main reason for
participating in the civil rights movement is that black women faced triple barriers (race, gender,
and class). Black women fought for free, the abolishment of slavery, and for civil rights. That
meant that black women would have the freedom to establish women's clubs to improve African
Americans' conditions. During the 20th century, black women formed the backbone of the
modern civil rights movement as they had encountered many barriers that had given them the
courage to fight for their rights. African American women were the critical mass, the grassroots
leaders challenging America to embrace justice and equality for all.

Given that feminist historians have reshaped the story of civil rights by refocusing
on the grassroots of activists in local communities. Therefore, the 20th-century civil rights
movement was deeply rooted in the 19th movement century, including abolishing slavery and
women's suffrage. Many black women reformers embraced the ideas discussed in women's
suffrage after being marginalized in other movements. During the civil rights movement, black
women's roles were supporting and leadership roles. Due to gender ideals and lack of formal
education, many black women were more often than not discriminated against and shunned away
from taking formal leadership positions within the American civil rights movement. Thus, due to
this discrimination, black women could portray their leadership skills, as demonstrated by


women like Kathleen Cleaver. Kathleen Cleaver took a recognitional risk of serving on the Black
Panther Party's central committee. Ella Mae Brayboy, another black woman, served as the co-
director of the voter registration. Grace Hamilton was elected as the first black American woman
in the state legislature in the South.

Great women such as Ida B. Wells-Barnett challenged discrimination and sexism
by exposing injustice and fight for equality. Ida used different strategies to fight for gender
equality by writing scathing articles decrying the scourge of the 1892 lynching. The scathing
articles exposing the injustice towards black women made her a target for the FBI, press, and
even the local people, who eventually drove her away from Memphis. Ida relocated to Chicago,
where she founded the first black women suffrage organization, Alpha Suffrage Club, which
campaigned for national rights. Ida being the first black woman to form a suffrage movement,
many other able black women formed other movements. However, one common thing about the
women's suffrage movement is that they all fought for gender equality, social justice, and
feminism. Throughout the struggle for women's rights, black women were always in the trenches
with white women and worked just as tirelessly despite facing criticism and greater opposition.
The black women suffragists had an integral role in the women's suffrage
movement. Many black women were drawn to the suffrage movement, and women's rights
movement to abolish slavery and the Temperance Movement. Right from the start of this
movement, black women supported and vocalized white women in the fight for the gender
equality of all women as United States citizens; however, their voices were shunned and their
opinions banned by the white women. The white women were adamant that their priority was not
about every woman's rights but for themselves alone. Because of the indifferences that arose
within the suffrage movement, many black women developed women's suffrage movement


groups and recruited other black women to take up the suffrage mantle. Later on, Susan B.
Anthony's National Suffrage Association discriminated against black women joined hands with
the American women suffrage association and fought for black women and men to receive equal
rights. The union of these two groups led to the formation of the National American Woman
Suffrage Association, which encouraged many black women to hold leadership positions.
Sojourner Truth, a former slave, spoke for abolition and civil rights and gave a powerful speech
about 'Ain't I a Woman' in 1851 during the Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio. During this
meeting, Sojourner challenged prevailing notions of racial and gender inferiority. Harriet
Tubman was also an abolitionist who actively supported and fought for women's rights. In 1854,
Harriet Forten Purvis helped organize the first National Woman's Rights Convention and create
the Philadelphia Suffrage Association. Margaretta Forten and Harriet Forten also became the
first black women to help form the America Equal Rights Association, which spoke in favor of
voting rights of both women and black men (Holton et al., 2002). Another important woman who
participated in the suffrage movement was Francis Harper. She participated in recruiting many
black women to join the suffrage movement's cause and became the first black woman to hold a
vice president position in the Nation Association of women of color. Some other black women
played important roles during the suffrage movement, such as Mary Ann Shadd Cary.

While in the Suffrage and Human Rights Movement, women played integral roles
of holding power positions, recruiting, and leading other black women to fight for both men and
women's rights; in the civil rights movement, black women served as chief sources for the
mobilization of the people and movement capital. Because of their gender, black women were
often expected to serve in clerical or domestic positions within Civil Rights Movement. When
they deviated from those expectations, they were ostracized and mistreated by men (black and


white). The revelation of this showed that Civil Rights Movement was gendered in terms of
mobilization of resources, organizations' structures, and the experiences of black female
activities compared to the suffrage movement. In the suffrage and Human Rights Movement,
black women were recognized. That's why they took most leadership and power positions, while
at the Civil Rights Movement, black women were serving subordinate positions, and hence their
impact was not recognized. As early as 1848, five thousand women had united under the
leadership of suffragist Alice Paul, marching in Washington to give maximum exposure to this
movement's cause. The civil rights movement in which black women played a crucial role in
galvanizing happened between the 1950s and 1960s, and women were the key strategists.
Septima Clark is one good example as she designed educational programs to teach African
American Community members how to read and write. According to Septima, teaching black
women how to write and read was important in fighting for their right to vote, equality, and
social justice.

Conclusively, although both the Civil Rights Movement and suffrage and Human
Rights Movement impacted black women's role in fighting for their rights, black women also
magnificently shaped U.S. culture. Black women's participation in the Civil Rights Movement
and Women Suffrage and Human Rights Movement was geared towards gender equality, the
right to vote for both black men and women, and the right to work and hold power and
leadership positions. Black women believed that as citizens of the United States, they were not
limited to their leadership roles and domestic roles. Women like Sojourner Truth, who had
experienced personal struggle towards freedom from slavery, remained unwavering in
supporting women's rights. Despite the racial divisions, Black women were collective in their
courage in the fight for equality.



Holton, S. S. (2002). Suffrage Days: stories from the women's suffrage movement. Routledge.
Robnett, B. (1996). African-American women in the civil rights movement, 1954-1965: Gender,
leadership, and micromobilization.