African American Women & the Struggle for Racial Equality

Viv Sanders corrects the male bias in the study of the civil rights movement in the USA.

Has anyone not heard of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X? Probably not. Is there anyone who has heard of Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer? Probably few.

Histories of the black struggle for equality in the USA usually concentrate upon male leaders. Admittedly many historians mention Rosa Parks refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man, but thereafter Parks disappears and is replaced by Martin Luther King.

Yet black women were vital in the struggle for equality. Looking at the black American experience from their viewpoint reminds us of the activism of ordinary people, which was often as important as that of male leaders.

Slaves and Free

Early European settlers in North America imported African slaves as cheap labour. Before the Civil War ended slavery, a few articulate blacks gained fame: two were women, Sojourner Truth (c.1799-1883) and Harriet Tubman (c.1822-1911).

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