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
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Chapter 16

The Civil Rights–Black Power Legacy
Black Women Elected Officials at the Local,
State, and National Levels

Linda Faye Williams

African American women who come to government,
come with the notion that government is not benevo-
lent…. We come knowing that if we are going to
take part in this process, we have to understand both
the power and the limitations of the office. We really
have to think very carefully about how we craft this
thing called government. Our experience as African
Americans has allowed us to develop very clear prin-
ciples, focused on what we need to do.

—Margaret Archie-Hudson, Assemblywoman,
District 48 (Los Angeles)1

Arguably, one of the most potent legislative outcomes of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s was the Voting Rights Act of 1965. While, for example, socioeconomic indicators such as the median income and the poverty rate demonstrate only murky progress at best in altering the relative condition of the black population as compared to the white population, the election of blacks to public office, largely as a result of the Voting Rights Act, demonstrates one straight line of upward growth (Figure 1).2 From fewer than 500 black elected officials in the nation as a whole in 1965, the numbers have grown to more than 8,000.3

Black women have been no exception to this trend. Like their male

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