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

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

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

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

Synopsis

Women were at the forefront of the civil rights struggle, but their indvidiual stories were rarely heard. Only recently have historians begun to recognize the central role women played in the battle for racial equality.

In Sisters in the Struggle , we hear about the unsung heroes of the civil rights movements such as Ella Baker, who helped found the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, Fannie Lou Hamer, a sharecropper who took on segregation in the Democratic party (and won), and Septima Clark, who created a network of "Citizenship Schools" to teach poor Black men and women to read and write and help them to register to vote. We learn of Black women's activism in the Black Panther Party where they fought the police, as well as the entrenched male leadership, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where the behind-the-scenes work of women kept the organization afloat when it was under siege. It also includes first-person testimonials from the women who made headlines with their courageous resistance to segregation- Rosa Parks, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, and Dorothy Height.

This collection represents the coming of age of African-American women's history and presents new stories that point the way to future study.

Contributors: Bettye Collier-Thomas, Vicki Crawford, Cynthia Griggs Fleming, V. P. Franklin, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Duchess Harris, Sharon Harley, Dorothy I. Height, Chana Kai Lee, Tracye Matthews, Genna Rae McNeil, Rosa Parks, Barbara Ransby, Jacqueline A. Rouse, Elaine Moore Smith, and Linda Faye Williams.

Excerpt

African American Women in the Civil Rights–Black Power Movement

The time
cracks into furious flower. Lifts its face
all unashamed. And sways in wicked grace.
Whose half-black hands assemble oranges
is tom-tom hearted
(goes in bearing oranges and boom).
And there are bells for orphans—
and red and shriek and sheen.
A garbage man is dignified
as any diplomat.
Big Bessie's feet hurt like nobody's business,
but she stands—bigly—under the unruly scrutiny,
stands in the wild seed.
In the wild weed
she is a citizen,
and, in a moment of highest quality, admirable.
It is lonesome, yes. For we are the last of the loud.
Nevertheless, live.
Conduct your blooming in the noise and whip of the
whirlwind.

—Gwendolyn Brooks, from “The Second
Sermon on the Warpland”

From the time that African women arrived on the shores of what came to be known as the “New World,” they have been caught up in a whirlwind of forces oftentimes beyond their control. Having survived the horrors of the Middle Passage was not enough; these mothers, grand-

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