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Women in the Civil Rights Movement

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Introduction and Overview

Civil rights refer to the privileges that belong to an individual by virtue of residency, particularly the elementary sovereignties and privileges assured by the constitution and by succeeding acts of the legislative body, including civil liberties, due process, equal fortification of the laws, and liberty from discrimination. The foregoing definition suggests that irrespective of the social status, political inclination or even religious values accrued to an individual, all persons under the laws governing a country must be guaranteed of their civil rights’ protection whatsoever. This, therefore, implies that the government of any particular country must always endeavor to uphold and protect its citizens and ensure that there exist no or minimal cases of trespassing or infringing another person’s civil rights. The state rules often stipulate all the legal rights accrued to a person in the constitution. The government, therefore, should bring into justices those individuals, who contravene to the civil rights and freedom of the other. Societies have proven beyond doubt that indeed, there can be no peaceful coexistence if the government does not intervene to ensure that all the rights of any human being are endorsed at any cost. It is imperative to always note the crucial role that the government plays in the contemporary world and always endeavor to acknowledge the existence of such bodies within the human being’s existence.

Civil Rights Movement is a humanitarian pursuit seeking to advocate for the government’s consideration of protecting the fundamental privileges of all citizens without discrimination. The movement was very vital in the 19th century, when people were not treated and accorded the respect they deserved. This was because even treatment to all members of the community concerned was occasionally disregarded in the unrelenting fight for the racial impartiality. In particular, women, both black and white, were excluded from all of the remunerations that were being struggled for within the movement. Due to the increased neglect by the then government to protect the civil rights of the citizens, the few elite members of the community grew concern and felt the need to come up with a strategy that would help them voice out their grievances in a bid to advocate for the protection of civil rights ensued to all members. The pioneers then rallied the support of many, whereby all men and women came together and advocated for civil rights protection. This was accompanied by the inexorable fight for the equality in America during the American Revolution, whereby white women were the only feminine gender considered pure. This cleanliness was to be maintained only by avoiding any relationship with black men. That is, sexual relationships among white females and black males were considered a taboo to the American society. In the meantime, black women were regarded to be impure, and thus, there were no relationships between black women and white men. In addition, when black women tried to take on relationship stands, they were faced with pressures from stereotypes. During the Civil Rights Movement, black female leadership latent was not fully recognized as a notion spread out that males could only be lifted at the expense of black women, who were consequently held down. Besides, black women were often stereotyped as the “black mammy”, who was anticipated to take on errands outside formal responsibilities by encouraging and providing a therapeutic lesson to others. They were not provided with the prospect of leading in any occasion. At the inception and even at the propagation of the Civil Rights Movement, many women and not only blacks were barred from taking any part in leadership and activism.

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This paper will focus on the women, who were considered the most prolific contributors in the wake of the fight for civil rights, especially during the American Revolution.

The Role of Women in the Civil Rights Movement

Women, such as Rosa Parks, Ella Baker, Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman, played a significant role in boosting the activities of the Civil Rights Movement. They came out strongly to fight for the equity despite the undesirable levels of discrimination they were facing. The overall roles played by such significant women in the Civil Rights Movement boosted its effectiveness and ensured that the required objectives were attained. These women were brave and could risk their lives for the sake of ensuring that the equality was attained in the United States of America. They were not intimidated by the fact that they were women, a gender that was commonly classified under the minority in the US. Therefore, they came out wholeheartedly in support for the Civil Rights Movement, facilitating its success. This part explicates the contribution of these courageous women in the Civil Rights Movement exemplifying some of the steps they took to ensure that equity is attained.

Rosa Parks is one of the most reckoned civil rights activists and is commonly christened “the mother of the Civil Rights Movement”. One of the most significant contributions by Rosa Parks began, when she refused to relinquish her seat in the bus to a Whiteman leading to her subsequent arrest. It is worth noting that the bus transport system in the US was highly segregated and required different seats for white and blacks. However, Parks defied this provision even after being asked by the driver to move toward the back of the bus in order to give the incoming white man her seat. Her subsequent arrest after the act sparked long-term bus boycotts in Montgomery and Alabama. She refused all the orders to move to the back of the bus, emphasizing that she got on the bus with the aim of going home and not with the intention of bing arrested. Gupta (2011) affirms that this motivated the residents of Montgomery and Alabama to take the chance to resist the high level of segregation that was in existence. The bus boycott took about 381 days and raised many concerns among different parties as Parks still insisted that she would never ride in a segregated bus. Her refusal to give the seat away to the white man and her subsequent arrest indicate her immense contribution to the civil rights movement. This act prompted the US Supreme Court to outlaw any acts of segregation in buses. This decision was positive to the Civil Rights Movement as it helped address one of the most disturbing issues of segregation. Thus, Rosa Parks played the instrumental role of setting the pace for the elimination of segregation in buses, hence, asserting her contribution to the Civil Rights Movement.

In addition, Parks also worked closely with participants of the Civil Rights Movement, offering her services in the most effective manner possible. It is noted that her role in the Civil Rights Movement was modest and was mainly aimed at bringing back the equality that everyone was looking forward to. Therefore, she was able to participate in the Civil Rights Movement together with other women in the most collaborative manner possible with the aim of bringing about the desired success in fighting segregation. Parks was able to provide ideas and advice on the required actions to be taken by individuals participating in the Civil Rights Movement. She stood firm and encouraged all individuals not to relent their efforts of continued fighting in order to achieve the required level of fairness and equality of all races and genders in the United States of America. Her advice was excellent even as she spearheaded the Civil Rights Movement that was contributing vastly towards the equality in the US. Her role in the Civil Rights Movement was motivational to other individuals, who also decided to embrace the same ideas and work toward the achievement of fairness in the US. Thus, Rosa Parks was always ready to offer advice and the required motivation to individuals taking part in the Civil Rights Movement. This was the key in facilitating the success of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States of America, hence, bringing about the equality and fair treatment for all individuals without the consideration of racial or gender backgrounds.

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Parks was brave and was always ready for an arrest as she worked for the Civil Rights Movement. She had a feeling that African Americans had taken too long to respond to the demeaning life they had been subjected to in the United States of America. Crawford, Ronse, & Woods (1990) confirm that her most famous assertion was that the thing that bothered her most was that people had taken too long to protest the undesirable segregation they were facing. As a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Parks was also on the frontline to ensure that African Americans in the US got the chance to understand their rights and fight for them in the most effective manner possible. It is significant to note that she worked together with other individuals at the NAACP, travelling to different places and emphasizing on the importance of equality in the United States of America. This reiteration awoke most individuals, who decided to support the Civil Rights Movement in its attempt of bringing about equality in the US.

Women were always focused on ensuring that the equality is attained. This can be seen from Ella Baker’s role in the Civil Rights Movement. It is vital to note that Baker was a grass roots organizer of the Civil Rights Movement and preferred working behind the scenes. The grass roots organization catapulted the Black Freedom Movement as it gained more energy, and individuals got the urge to work more and more toward eliminating the high levels of segregation that were being witnessed. Her role of organizing individuals ensured a cooperation among African Americans as they forged ahead with the common goal of ensuring that the equality was attained as asserted by the US Constitution. Her role of grass roots organizing also entailed teaching individuals about their rights and freedoms as enshrined in the US Constitution. This ensured togetherness, even as African Americans worked toward the freedom and equal rights. It is asserted that she was extremely vocal at the grass roots level, and this helped in eliminating the unnecessary fear among other African Americans that were pursuing the equality in the United States of America. Therefore, Baker was a key grass roots organizer that enabled individuals at the lower levels to understand what the Civil Rights Movement stood for and the contribution they could make toward ensuring its success.

Again, Baker worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which gave her the opportunity to contribute further to the Civil Rights Movement. While working for the NAACP, Baker got the opportunity to travel to different destinations, recruit more members, raise money and participate in campaigns agitating for the equality. According to the article “Breaking boundaries: Women who fought for our rights” (2012),  Baker’s wide travel to various destinations gave her the chance to reach out to different people and inform them about the Civil Rights Movement, and the roles that it came to play in advancing their freedom. This ensured that people in different parts of the US were aware of the movement and were ready to support its activities. Additionally, she was able to recruit more people to the NAACP, hence, helping in their enlightenment about their rights and freedoms as citizens of the United States of America. The Civil Rights Movement was also in a need of adequate funds to boost its activities, and Baker did not hesitate to do this. She was on the forefront in ensuring that adequate funds were contributed to boostt the activities of the Civil Rights Movement. The funds that were raised also played a crucial role of reaching out to people in the US and informing them about the need to attain the equality.

Baker’s activities under the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) are also indicative of her relentless contribution to the Civil Rights Movement. This movement emphasized non-violence in the push toward the attainment of the equality in the US. Baker was on the leading line, when it came to advising people to work together and embrace each other as brother and sister. She did not support violent attacks, but wanted to ensure that the rescue of the blacks living in the South was successfully done through non-violent attacks. The emphasis on the non-violence supported the success of the Civil Rights Movement as it could be appreciated widely by all individuals in the US. The logic was easily seen in the movement because of the non-violent approach it took toward ensuring that African Americans learnt about their rights and freedoms. The utilization of non-violent campaigns ensured that the Civil Rights Movement grew stronger and attracted the attention of the relevant authorities that asserted the equality in the United States of America.

Susan B. Anthony was an embodiment in the realization of the equality in America. She possessed an argument that the treatment of people should the same, regardless of their race, sex, religious beliefs and political affiliations. She criticized the racial decimation that was looming in America. Through talks that she indulged in, she boldly called for equal considerations in various fields without any favoritism. Her argument was that the equality could lead to a harmony in the society, however, the civil right and its denial could result into a disharmony in the society. Therefore, she argued that the equality was a key instrument in every harmonious society. The fight for women rights formed a centre stage in her advocate for the equality at a time, when women were barred from taking part in various social and political responsibilities. Women were denied from taking part in the political leadership and even denied the democratic right to vote. She argued that women had an important role in determining the best leadership of the country that could only be achieved through taking part in the electoral process. Her firm belief was that voting rights is a civil right for every individual, women inclusive. She advocated for this through the formation of various movements that fronted for this right. 

She rallied women to rise to the call and seek their rights. In addition, she advocated for women to be part of the political leadership. Through taking part in the voting process, she believed that people could develop a trust in women and even bestow them with leadership. In her struggle for the realization of the equality, Susan formed various committees and joined various associations that helped in championing for women’s rights. National Women Suffrage Association is an example of an association that Susan joined; they organized lectures on essentials of the equality in various parts of Europe. Consequently, she initiated a weekly journal called Revolution. Schwan (2011) opines that this gave her another platform to express the need for the equality to be adopted in various sectors in Europe. Besides, Anthony joined Women’s New York State Temperance that became highly instrumental in advocating women’s rights. She further argued women rights should not be suppressed at the expense of men’s rights. Anthony elucidated that if women were rendered their rights, then wrangles and violence would be avoided. The achievement of the equality and women’s political rights shows the role of Susan B. Anthony in fighting for the realization of human civic rights.

In 1852, women in America were denied the ownership rights to property; thus, Anthony campaigned against this practice. Her argument was that the responsibility called for the ownership, since women had various roles to undertake, they had to own the property to support these roles. Through New York State Woman’s Rights Committee that was her formation, they advocated and petitioned women to be allowed to own the property. Anthony argued that it was a civic right for women to own the property band this could also stem up to a harmony in the society and equality. Women played an integral part in the fight for civil rights and the Susan B. Anthony’s role can never be overlooked. In 1840, when the slave trade was at its peak, Anthony rallied against the slave trade. She termed it an evil act and an activity that violated human rights, hence the civic rights, she termed the slave trade as a vice that had to be terminated from the America’s domain. She understood that the human freedom was an integral civic right that one could not be denied. In order to curb this, she organized public talks that helped in sheding light on the rights of slaves and how the trade denies them their freedom. Various barriers that she faced did not jeopardize her desire to end the slave trade. Besides, she formed an array of anti-slave trade movements that helped in championing against the trade. The movements resulted into various resolutions on how to curb the trade that was viewed as a threat to the human dignity. These movements extensively organized campaigns across Europe that criticized the trade. The American Anti-Slave Society was an organization that opposed the slave trade and rallied for the rights of slaves The society engaged in creating the awareness among people on the need to uphold and guard others civic rights. Anthony joined this movement in 1856 and became key in the operations of the Society as she spearheaded various conferences. The struggle for the abolition of slave trade by Susan B. Anthony clearly manifests the centre stage that women took in the fight for civil rights.

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