Last week, manifestations against racism were headed in many countries around the world. I participated in the one organized in Helsinki, Finland. I was proud to see a new generation of black people shouting for their rights. I got skin chill to hear the slogan #Blacklivesmatter.
On social media, there was a lot of debate about this slogan. A friend posted that is was rare to read it and others were questioning about other lives. The truth is that all lives matter.
Black people’s rights had been violated and minorized over centuries. What happing to George Floyd in Minneapolis last month had been happening over and over. This is not a new incident.
In the 1950s, after almost a century of segregation, inequality, discrimination, and other acts of violence, a group of black women and men started the Civil Rights Movement in the United States of America. They organized boycotts, sit-ins, and pacific protests. For instance, in 1961, the Freedom Rides, and 1963, the March on Washington.
Ella Baker, Josephine Baker, Ruby Bridges, Johnnie Carr, Angela Davis, Thelma Glass, McCree Harris, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Shirley Sherrod, Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, etc. are some figures of the Civil Rights Movement.
Besides the above list, others also played a crucial role as strategists and advocates in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States of America and other countries. These women were also young like the ones I saw last week.
Septima Clark (1898-1987)
She was an educator in South Carolina who evolved the “A Citizenship Schools”, which taught and motivated Black Americans to learn literature, education, and citizenship rights to empower their communities. She also fought for equal pay for black teachers and was one of the persons who accompanied Martin Luther King Jr. to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.
Amelia Boyton (1911-2015 )
She was a key figure of the Civil Rights in Selma, Alabama and one of the leaders who convinced MLK Jr. to march in from Selma to Montgomery on March 7th, 1965. This is known also as “Bloody Sunday”. On the Edmund Pettus Bridge, over the Alabama River in Selma, the protesters were attacked by policemen, Boyton was brutally beaten.
In 1964, she ran for a seat in Congress, being the first African American woman and first female Democratic candidate from Alabama to postulate for this position.
Dorothy Height ( 1912-2010)
She is known as the “Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement”. Her activism started in the 1930s, which advocated for women’s rights such as unemployment, illiteracy and voter participation. For over 40 years, she was the president of the National Council for Negro Women and one of the organizers of the March on Washington. Moreover, she had a big influence on leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis.
Jo Ann Robinson (1912-1992)
She was a teacher who became an active member of the movement after having been attacked verbally by a bus driver in 1949. Disgusted by this action Ann led the Women’s Political Council, which focused their work on the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Following the arrest of Rosa Parks (she refused to give her seat to a white man), Ann immediately acted by distributing over 50,000 flyers calling for a boycott on the 5th of December, which was a success.
Bates was an activist, journalist, and publisher in Arkansas. Together with her husband, she founded The Arkansas Press, which was published on May 9, 1941, and mainly supported African American stories and advocated civil rights. In 1954, the Supreme Court landmarked segregation as unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education. Bates played a significant role in the desegregation at schools, after this decision by mentoring and organizing the “Little Rock Nine” students to integrate Little Rock Central High School in 1957.
Georgia Gilmore (1920-1990)
She was a cook at the National Lunch Company who was fire for participating in the bus boycott. She embraced her talent to cook from home and support the movement. She founded the Club From Nowhere, which motivated African women to cook and bake goods to be sold outside their houses and at protests gathering. The fund from this action was used to support the bus resistance.
Ruby Dee (1922-2014)
Dee was an actress who used her profession to outspeak the subservient roles given to African Americans in the film industry. Together with Ossie Davis, her husband supported the movement through the arts and demonstrated positive portraits of African Americans in their works. She also was one of the masters of ceremony at the March on Washington.
Corretta Scott King (1927-2006)
While studying music at the Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, she experienced segregation, which motivated her to join the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). She married Martin Luther King Jr. in 1953, to whom she gave her support as a wife and mother. However, she continued her quest for civil rights in and out of the United States of America.
Claudette Colvin (1935-)
She was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Claudette’s parents didn’t own a car, so every day she depended on a bus to get to and from school. One day in 1955, at age 15, she resisted giving up her seat on a crowded Montgomery bus to a white woman who was standing ( by law, Claudette supposed to give her seat, even though she was sitting in the black section). For this act, she was forcibly removed from the bus and arrested.
A year later, she gave her testimony at the court case Gayle v. Browder, which, intended to end transportation segregation in the state.
Diane Nash (1938-)
Nash got involved in the civil movements in Nashville, Tennessee, while studying at the Fisk University. She was a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), organizer of the Freedom Rides where Martin Luther King Jr. participated.