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Black Women in Civil Rights

In: Historical Events

Submitted By papers1023
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Black Woman Involved in the Black Power Movement Angela Davis

HIU 301
Samantha Wilson
December 4, 2013

There has been many civil rights movements throughout African American history, but none has gotten the most attention as the black power movement in the 1960s.Although we only hear about men during these periods there would not have been so much success without the women. The women were the real grassroots of the movement, but did not get as much recognition. When did the black power movement start? Many people are not sure, but the black power movement can be traced as far back to the 1920s with the Marcus Garvey movement, and his formation of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. The Universal Negro Improvement Association were followers of Marcus Garvey. Marcus Garvey was the first person to organize masses of black people, because he was very influential, he was able to attain that goal.1 The Marcus Garvey’s UNIA had the same goals like the black power, such as self-determination, self-pride, and unity. The UNIA slowly died down once Marcus Garvey became ill and subsequently died. 2 A couple of years after the UNIA died down, there were a couple of protests and marches such as the Meredith march and the march on Washington with A. Phillip Randolph and later Dr Martin Luther King. These marches did get some attention, but not the attention that the people desperately craved for.1 When you think of the black power movement, What comes to mind? Well for me many things come to mind, such as raised fists, militant outfits, men with guns, berets, afros, dashikis and black leather outfits.2 The black power movement started in 1960s but was not fully recognized and brought to global attention until 1966 by Stokely Carmichael. Carmichael was head of the SNCC student nonviolent coordinating committee at the time and took the place of John Lewis. In June of 1966 a march was led by civil rights activists James Meredith called the “Meredith march” the march took place in Mississippi with the theme March Against Fear. This march was to fight for the voting rights of blacks. During the march James Meredith was shot.

1.Kenneth O’Reilly, Black Americans: The FBI Files (New York, NY: Carrol&Graf, 1994), 139
2.Adam Fairclough, Better Day Coming: Black and Equality (NewYork, NY: Viking, 2001),3 Stokely Carmichael, along with the groups such as SNCC, CORE and the SCLC used this publicity platform from the March and shooting of James Meredith to address the issues that were going on in the black community. Carmichael would also use that same platform to bring awareness globally. Many people felt that Dr. Kings no violence method was growing thin, so something new had to be done. Dr. King’s movement known as Freedom Now was replaced with the slogan Black Power. The black power was the opposite of Dr. King’s view of non-violence. Instead, the black power movement took the opposite approach, which condoned violence if necessary only in extreme cases especially self-defense After the black power gained its full momentum new groups emerged such as the black panther party founded by Newton huey and bobby seale, and the nation of Islam later led by Malcolm x just to name a few. The movement started in California but quickly spread to other major cities, such as Harlem, Detroit and Chicargo. Many members of the black party were young college students. This movement led to campus unrest, prison rebellions uprisings and riots.3 The goals of the black power movement was to help African Americans empower themselves and create a strong identity for themselves that would separate them from other races, at the same time fight to be able to have the same equal rights as whites. Other goals of the black power movement was to advocate and fight for full employment, decent housing, better education, not have to be forced to be in the military, end police brutality, and to have fair trials with jurors that were mixed and consisted of some of their peers. This black power movement period strongly emphasized black pride, which ultimately led to the creation of many black cultural and political institutions. These institutions were created to advance black values and help secure black autonomy.

3.Adam Fairclough,Better Day Coming:Black and Equality (NewYork,NY:Viking,2001),296

4.In the black power movement the leaders of this movement promoted the members to join or create political parties. The motive was to elect black officials that would be a real representation of them and they would be able to address the issues that the people felt needed attention such as racism, inequality, violence, lower wages, and voting discrimination. It was also at this historical moment that the black party members replaced the word Negro, with black. Many outsiders did not comprehend this movement and saw it as something negative. One reason some people felt this was a negative movement was because it went against the dream of Martin Luther King dream for all races to live in harmony together. The black power movement did the opposite, which was the promotion for separation. Although the media portrayed the negative things there were a lot of positive things that came out of the black power movement such as the implementation of African studies in many colleges and universities. The movement also provided free lunch for kids and adults, free tutoring, and free medical care. Each of the members volunteered to help each other, which brought a sense of unity to the people. The promotion of self-pride was emphasized. African Americans started to embrace their heritage. This could be seen with the clothes that were worn, women started wearing afros instead of straightening their hair and many people wore Dashikis. The members came together to keep their neighborhoods clean. 5.When you hear about the black power movement you rarely hear about any women, but don’t let that fool you. Even though women were rarely mentioned woman played a major rule in the black power movement. There were a few but I will only mention one and her role in the black power movement. Her name is Angela Davis. Women during that period were suppose to stand behind the men if the women chose to make herself visible and become outspoken she was branded as being out of line.
4. Kwame Ture,Black Power:The politics of Liberation(Toronto, Canada:Vintage,1992),44
5.Ada Feyerick,Sisters in the Struggle:African American Women in Civil rights black power(NY press,2001)2-3 Men were always the leaders of these movements, because women were not allowed to take leadership roles. Women may not have been leaders, but they were truly leaders in their own right. Women were the grassroots of these movements, they were the ones going house to house developing connections with the people which they needed, in order for the movement to be successful. Women in general were always expected to be docile. This was a role that has been expected since the beginning of time. The women’s role and opinion of woman particularly around the black power movement was not much different than years ago and remains consistent with the traditional roles even today. Women’s role in the black power movement era was difficult because not only did the women have to go through racial discrimination but they also they had to also encounter gender discrimination. Black women were not allowed to attend school, vote and there were not much job opportunities for them. The only jobs that were available for women were for white women. Like Angela Davis she dreamed of what most women wanted which was to have the same rights as men. 6.An example of how women were viewed in the black party movement era was expressed by Elaine Brown, a chairperson and member of the Black Panther party “ a woman in black power movement was considered at best irrelevant a woman attempting the role of leadership was a violation of some black power principle that was left undefined. If a woman assumed a role of leadership she was said to be eroding black manhood to be hindering the progress of the black man role she was the enemy of the black people”. Hearing What Elaine Brown said I am not surprised because women have been stuck in the same traditional roles for years. Even though it is 2013 we still have a long way to go.

6.Ada Feyerick,Sisters in the Struggle:African American Women in Civil rights black power(NY press,2001)24-25

7.Angela Davis was born on January 26, 1944 in Birmingham Alabama to both college educated parents. Her dad was a teacher but decided to become a mechanic because the teacher salary was meager. Angela’s mother was also a teacher. Growing up in Alabama Angela faced discrimination and racism. Angela was influenced greatly by her mother who was very politically involved. Angela was accepted into Brandeis University in Massachusetts. She was only one of a few black students that were accepted into that college. It was in Angela’s junior year college that she heard the terrible news of the 4 little girls that died in the church bombing. This tragedy touched Angela profoundly because she knew three of the girls. 8.I watched a documentary on Angela Davis. She talked about the revolution and a little about her life growing up in Alabama Mississippi. Angela Davis ”the black panther does still exist in Oakland California. When you mention revolution people think of violence but the content lays in the principles and the goals that you are striving for because the way society is you have to expect violence. If you are a black person and you walk out your house all you see if white police officers. When I lived in LA police stopped me all the time because I was a black woman with natural hair and I appeared to them as militant. I grew up in Alabama and my friends died because of bombs that were placed in the church by racist. Sounds of bombs constantly made our house shake that’s why my father had a gun because at any moment we could have been attacked. I remember hearing the mayor Eugene Bull Connor saying, niggers moved in the neighborhood so expect bloodshed. In the neighborhood you could not rely on the police so men took their own guns and patrolled the area to make sure our people were safe. I get very upset when people ask me about violence because they have no idea what black people have gone through or what they have experienced”
7.Jessie Smith, Black Heros(Canton, MI,Visable Ink Press,1998),160-161
8. The Black Power Mixtape,directed by Goran Olsson(Oakland, CA:PBS,2011),DVD Angela graduated with a major in French, and then went on to grad school where she got her doctorate in philosophy. After Angela graduated with her masters degree she became active in the civil rights movement. 1Angela developed a group called the black students council, while developing a college program for minority students.9. In 1967 Angela attended a workshop that was held in Los Angeles by the SNCC that impressed Angela. In 1968 Angela moved to Los Angeles, it is there that she developed a friendship with Kendra Alexander. Kendra had ties with the SNCC, black panthers and the communist party. Angela joined the SNCC, she later left to join the black panthers. Angela’s connection with the black panthers is where she got the most attention. In 1970s Angela was accused of being involved in a case. She was wanted, and escaped. She was put on the FBI list of one of the most wanted. She was later acquitted. The case brought Angela notoriety, which gained her many supporters. Angela organized rallies and took part in protests. She started her public speaking to advocate for the oppressed, racism, sexism, social justice, and gay rights.10. Ms. Davis did an interview on Democracy now and in that interview she expressed her views. Her views to me are consistent with the way she felt when she joined in the movement many years ago. She felt that racial discrimination is very much alive and is still heavily felt especially in the FBI organization. When things happened she feels as though they always seen to imply that it is a minority that is involved. One example that she mentioned was the Boston bomber, they described the suspect as a dark make in a hoodie. Currently, Ms. Davis is still advocating for is racism, sexism, social justice, and rights of prisoners and gay rights. After traveling and Lecturing, Angela went back to teaching. She has written many books and essays. Throughout history there has been many civil rights movements. Even though they were all different the goals were similar. The main goals were for African Americans to have the freedom, have basic civil rights protected and share the same equal rights as whites.
9.Jessie Smith, Black Heros(Canton, MI,Visable Ink Press,1998),160-161
10.Racialization of Terrorism,directed by John Evans(Chicargo, IL:Democracy Now,1998),DVD Being a woman made it more difficult because not only did you have to fight racism but also you had to deal with the sexism. Woman may not have been recognized as much or even given leader roles, but they played a significant and will always remain the grassroots of all the movements.


Primary Sources:
The Black Power Mixtape. DVD.Directed by Goran Olsson .2011;Oakland, CA:PBS,2012.
Racialization of Terrorism.DVD.Directed by John Evans.1998;Chicargo, IL:Democracy Now, 2012.

Secondary Sources
Fairclough,Adam.Better Day Coming:Blacks and Equality.New York, NY:Viking,2001.
O’Reilly, Kenneth.Black Americans:The FBI Files.New York, NY:Carroll&Graf,1994.
Smith, Jesse. Black Heros. Canton, MI:Visible Ink Press,1998.
Ture,Kwame.Black Power:The Politics Liberation.New York, NY:Vintage Books,1992.

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