Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement

By Bettye Collier-Thomas; V. P. Franklin | Go to book overview

Part II

Personal Narratives

Part II draws on the recollections of three important women in the Civil Rights Movement—Rosa Parks, Charlayne Hunter Gault, and Dorothy I. Height—and allows them to convey, in their own words, the momentous events in which each of them participated. These personal testimonies hold particular importance because the voices of black women have seldom been given recognition outside or even within the Civil Rights Movement.

This section begins with Rosa Parks' dramatic retelling of the incidents surrounding her arrest on December 1, 1955 and the launching of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Parks emphasizes that at the time she never considered that she might provide the NAACP with a test case to challenge legal segregation practiced by the local transit company. Parks engaged in this extremely important act of resistance because she was “tired of giving in.” Given her reputation in the community, Parks became the perfect person to rally around. Most blacks in Montgomery agreed with the young woman who announced at Parks' trial, “They've messed with the wrong one now.” Parks also describes the planning and execution of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and makes it clear that despite the loss of their jobs, she and her husband remained active in the boycott, dispatching cars, attending meetings, and raising money for the cause.

In the essay, “'Heirs to a Legacy of Struggle': Charlayne Hunter Integrates the University of Georgia,” Charlayne Hunter Gault describes the legal maneuvering that took place to allow her and fellow classmate Hamilton Earl Holmes in 1961 to become the first African Americans to enroll at the University of Georgia. The self-esteem instilled in Hunter Gault by her grandmother while growing up in Atlanta allowed her to deflect much of the abuse she received when she was finally admitted to the school. Hunter Gault makes the connection between the events at the university and the subsequent desegregation of public elementary and high schools in Georgia.

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