From Civil Rights to Black Power
African American Women and Nationalism
The essays in Part IV examine the role of black women during the period of transition from the emphasis on civil rights to the more militant demands for “Black Power.” These essays offer new perspectives on the participation and leadership of African American women within organizations and campaigns that were previously characterized as “malecentered” and “male-dominated.” Rather than working behind the scenes as “bridge leaders,” as was the case in various civil rights campaigns, African American women in the Black Power movement were highly visible, more outspoken, and often militant in the pursuit of black equality. They sometimes placed themselves in dangerous positions and questioned nonviolence as the most appropriate strategy to bring about social change. At the same time, however, in a movement full of contradictions about “proper” gender roles, the talents of many women were underutilized and unappreciated.
Sharon Harley's essay, “'Chronicle of a Death Foretold': Gloria Richardson, the Cambridge Movement, and the Radical Black Activist Tradition,” examines the personal background and leadership style of Gloria Richardson, the chair of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (CNAC). While Gloria Richardson has been the subject of several recent studies of African American women in civil rights campaigns, neither she nor the movement she led is mentioned in the major studies of the Civil Rights Movement authored by Robert Brisbane, Adam Fairclough, Juan Williams, Manning Marable, Jack Bloom, Robert Weisbrot, and others (see Selected Bibliography). Harley argues that the major reason why Richardson and the Cambridge Movement have not been included in the general histories is because Richardson's militant leadership of a civil rights campaign that sometimes turned violent did not fit their paradigm for the Martin Luther King-led, nonviolent civil rights campaigns of the early