Witnessing and Testifying: Black Women, Religion, and Civil Rights

By Rosetta E. Ross | Go to book overview

5
"Fire Shut Up in My Bones"
Black Women Students in the Movement

While many Black women activists of the Civil Rights Era interacted with each other, either directly or indirectly, Black women students connected with persons spanning the gamut of civil rights participants. Although a similar assessment may be made of activists like Ella Baker and Septima Clark, who put into place traditions of practice that others followed throughout the Movement, student activists took up veteran community workers' practices first as activists themselves, then as leaders of other students, and finally as leaders of local civil rights participants. Women students' interaction with practices established by others included using an array of protest tactics, especially those focused on carrying forward values of egalitarianism, attention to the least, and asserting race pride and personal agency. By taking up specific traditions of older adult trailblazers focused on organizing, educating, and generally empowering local people, these young adults carried forward values and practices of people like Baker and Clark, whose work both prepared the way and made the connections necessary for students to take the Movement into small towns and rural areas of the South. Often work of student activists made way for people like Hamer and DeLee to step onto the civil rights stage outside of their local communities. Moreover, as members of the generation that ushered in slogans like "Black is beautiful!" and "Black Power!" student activists helped carry forward Clara Muhammad's work to overcome material and emotional denigration caused by racial subordination. Diane Nash and Ruby Doris Smith Robinson were two students whose activism as SNCC workers typified the passion and gamut of interaction in Black women student civil rights activities.

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