Let’s honor some of the courageous women who fought for civil rights!
Black Female Freedom Fighters
In honor of MLK Day, I wanted to write about the fight for civil rights and equality. But as so many things in history, I feel there is a lack of acknowledgement for some of the amazing women who contributed to this fight. So today, let’s shine a light on some amazing Black Female Freedom Fighters!
Septima Clark was a public school teacher in South Carolina for thirty years. She was forced to relinquish her position in 1956 when she refused to renounce her involvement with the NAACP.
Believing literacy to be the key to political empowerment, she went on to set up workshops to teach others basic literacy skills, the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizens and how to fill out voter registration forms.
She continued teaching and advocating for civil responsibilities for the rest of her life. She taught and developed curriculum at key places like the Highlander Folk School for social advocacy, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the American Field Service.
In 1975, she was elected to the South Carolina School Board. She received a letter of apology the following year from the South Carolina governor and got her pension reinstated.
In 1979, she was recognized by President Jimmy Carter and given a Living Legacy Award and published an autobiography about her involvement and journey with the Civil Rights Movement. You can check it out below!
Amelia Boynton Robinson
Amelia Boynton Robinson was an activist leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. She was a key figure in the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965. She was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Medal in 1990.
Boynton began her activism in 1934 when she registered to vote, a difficult task in Alabama at the time. A few years later she wrote a play called Through the Years, that recounted her father’s half-brother’s story. He had been a former slave who was elected to Congress during the Reconstruction Era.
In 1958, her son was arrested for attempting to buy food from a white food counter in a bus terminal. He was found guilty of a misdemeanor in the state court and fined. A current law student at Howard University, he appealed the decision and unfortunately lost until the case (Boynton vs. Virginia) eventually went to the Supreme Court and was reversed by Thurgood Marshall.
In 1964 Boynton ran for Congress hoping to encourage black registration and voting. She was the first female African American to run for office in Alabama and the first woman of any race to run on the Democratic Party ticket for the state. She received 10% of the vote.
In 1965 Boynton began working with Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders to plan demonstrations for voting and civil rights. She helped organize a march to Montgomery which took place on March 7th, 1965. The event became known as Bloody Sunday when police stopped and beat the demonstrators. Boynton was beaten unconscious, a photo of her lying on Edmund Pettus Bridge went around the world and is still one of the most famous photographs from the march today.
To learn more about Boynton read one of the books below- including her own Bridge Across Jordon!
Nine More Amazing Black Female Freedom Fighters
Are you familiar with Leah Chase or Dr. June Jackson Christmas? What about Aileen Hernandez or Diane Nash? Sadly, they along with Judy Richardson, Kathleen Cleaver, Gay McDougall, Gloria Richardson, and Myrlie Evers have been mostly left out of the history books. Until now!
Nominated for a 50th NAACP IMAGE Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Debut Author, Lighting the Fires of Freedom is a MUST Read to learn more about overlooked women from the Civil Rights Movement.
Janet Dewart Bell put together these women’s stories from collections of oral narratives and photographs. Each of these women answered the call to fight for freedom with passion, courage, and persistence.
If you’re interested in getting a close look at the women who were on the front lines during this movement- you need to read Bell’s book!