Sisters In The Struggle

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
”If Bettye Collier-Thomas and V.P. Franklin had only gathered together a distinguished group of scholars to document the role woman played in the black freedom movement, their contribution would be immense. But Sisters in the Struggle is more than an acknowledgement and celebration of black woman's activism. It is a major revision of history, revealing that black women were the critical thinkers, strategists, fighters, and dreamers of the movement. Black feminists developed a social vision expansive enough to emancipate us all."

-Robin D.G. Kelley,author of Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class

"Sisters in the Struggle is a powerful, inspirational and insightful book that takes the reader on a journey into the lives of some of the nation's most gifted and courageous African American women leaders, feminist organizers, and Black Power advocates. It was through the dint of their efforts that they helped shape and define what American society should become. These "sheroes" remind us that the prices they paid for freedom bequeathed a legacy of human dignity and opportunity that must be sustained by generations to follow.”

-Joyce A. Ladner,author of Tomorrow's Tomorrow: The Black Woman

”The quality of each individual essay makes Sisters in the Struggle stand out as an unusual anthology, one whose total sum is actually more than its parts.”

-Journal of American History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814716021
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2001
  • Pages: 363
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Bettye Collier-Thomas is Professor of History and Director of the Center for African-American History and Culture at Temple University. She is the author of Daughters of Thunder: Black Women Preachers and Their Sermons and co-author, with V.P. Franklin, of My Soul is a Witness: A Chronology of the Civil Rights Era, 1954-1965.

V.P. Franklin is Distinguished Professor of History at Drexel University. He is the author of several books, including Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Biography and Living Our Stories, Telling Our Truths: Autobiography and the Making of the African-American Intellectual Tradition.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: In the Whip of the Whirlwind 1

part i: Laying the Groundwork: African American Women and Civil Rights Before 1950 9

1 "Closed Doors": Mary McLeod Bethune on Civil Rights 11
Introduction by Elaine M. Smith Mary McLeod Bethune

2 For the Race in General and Black Women in Particular: The Civil Rights Activities of African American Women's Organizations, 1915-50 21
V. P. Franklin and Bettye Collier-Thomas

3 Behind-the-Scenes View of a Behind-the-Scenes Organizer: The Roots of Ella Baker's Political Passions 42
Barbara Ransby

part ii: Personal Narratives 59

4 "Tired of Giving In": The Launching of the Montgomery Bus Boycott 61
Rosa Parks

5 "Heirs to a Legacy of Struggle": Charlayne Hunter Integrates the University of Georgia 75
Charlayne Hunter Gault

6 "We Wanted the Voice of a Woman to Be Heard": Black Women and the 1963 March on Washington 83
Dorothy I. Height

part iii: Women, Leadership, and Civil Rights 93

7 "We Seek to Know . . . in Order to Speak the Truth": Nurturing the Seeds of Discontent-Septima P. Clark and Participatory Leadership 95
Jacqueline A. Rouse

8 African American Women in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party 121
Vicki Crawford

9 Anger, Memory, and Personal Power: Fannie Lou Hamer and Civil Rights Leadership 139
Chana Kai Lee

part iv: From Civil Rights to Black Power: African American Women and Nationalism 171

10 "Chronicle of a Death Foretold": Gloria Richardson, the Cambridge Movement, and the Radical Black Activist Tradition 174
Sharon Harley

11 Black Women and Black Power: The Case of Ruby Doris Smith Robinson and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee 197
Cynthia Griggs Fleming

12 "Ironies of the Saint": Malcolm X, Black Women, and the Price of Protection 214
Farah Jasmine Griffin

13 "No One Ever Asks What a Man's Role in the Revolution Is": Gender Politics and Leadership in the Black Panther Party, 1966-71 230
Tracye A. Matthews

part v: Law, Feminism, and Politics 257

14 "Joanne Is You and Joanne Is Me": A Consideration of African American Women and the "Free Joan Little" Movement, 1974-75 259
Genna Rae McNeil

15 From the Kennedy Commission to the Combahee Collective: Black Feminist Organizing, 1960-80 280
Duchess Harris

16 The Civil Rights-Black Power Legacy: Black Women Elected Officials at the Local, State, and National Levels 306
Linda Faye Williams

Selected Bibliography 333

Permissions 343
Contributors 345
Index 349

All illustrations appear as a group following page 148.
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