Women and the Politics of Empowerment

By Ann Bookman; Sandra Morgen | Go to book overview

ation of public opinion in favor of the struggle's objectives. These sectors of the Black community found common cause -- across ethnic, religious, gender, class, and age differences -- in their opposition to the retrenchment of social gains for Black people in education, and in their insistence on high-quality leadership and education as "rights" essential to the integrity of the social tenet of equality of educational opportunity.

Nor do the limitations of the concrete victory diminish the fact that practical gender interests of Black women at the college were politicized by the crisis. Equality of educational opportunity for women was translated into the perceived "right" to have child care. Quality leadership meant the "right" to have leadership sensitive to the needs of the predominantly Black female college community. 8 Quality education came to encompass the "right" to have curricula regarding Black people and women's history and culture as well as decent facilities and program resources on a par with those of whites.

Members of the coalition have repeatedly voiced the opinion that although they did not achieve every goal conceived, their efforts to effect concrete change did not go unrewarded. They cite as worth the sacrifices the development of the students' political awareness, organizational skills, and belief in the possibility of a unified stand against injustice. There are now graduates of Medgar Evers College who have been armed with both academic skills to develop their communities and the skills necessary for organizing their communities for improved social, political, and economic conditions. These are the most important fruits of the Medgar Evers College struggle.


NOTES
1.
Shirley Chisholm, "The Politics of Coalition", The Black Scholar 4, No. 1 ( September 1972): 31.
2.
This is evidenced by centuries of sanctions against quality education for African-Americans that have met with vigilant individual and mass efforts at defiance: antebellum legislation that made the instruction of African-Americans unlawful; Jim Crow laws that legalized separate and unequal education for America's Black population; and neoconservative federal policies of the present era that have eliminated the protection of racial quotas or proposed major cutbacks in education (that is, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling for Alan Bakke and the Gramm-Rudman Act, respectively). In the struggle for Black women's education, the historical record also abounds with instances of racist and sexist violence. For example, in 1833, arson attacks and vandalism directed at the Canterbury, Connecticut, Female Boarding School for Black girls served to effect the school's demise where ostracism and state law had failed.(See Sylvia G. L. Dannett, Profiles of Negro Womanhood: Volume I, 1619-1900 ( Yonkers, N.Y.: Educational Heritage, 1964), 75-76. Also see Philip Sheldon Foner et al., Three Who Dared: Prudence Crandall, Margaret Douglass and Myrtilla Miner -- Champions of Antebellum Black Education ( Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984).

In 1957, the random physical assaults on Black women, the bombing of civil rights activist Daisy Bates's home, the stoning of Black children, and the deployment of the

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