Women in the Civil Rights Movement


The Civil Rights Movement is one of the major events that had taken place in the world. The Civil Rights Movement among African American started more than three centuries ago. The first Civil Rights Movement is believed to have occurred in 1565 when the enslavement of Africans began. The main goal of the Civil Rights Movement was to bring to an end the racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans. This involved appropriate societal reforms in order to ensure that the human rights of African Americans were observed, obeyed and respected. The Civil Rights Movement featured campaigns of civil resistance and non-violent protests that aimed to create awareness about the violation and fight for obedience of human rights of African Americans.

Although a lot has been accomplished through the Civil Rights Movement, there still is much to achieve with regard to societal reforms and racial segregation and discrimination. It is common knowledge that present-day social equality in the United States of America was brought about by momentous changes initiated by ordinary people. The war against social inequality in the United States was brought about by numerous protests against racial segregation and discrimination of black Americans. These protests, which mostly took place in the southern America, led to the birth of the Civil Rights Movement. Ollhoff also affirms that the Civil Rights Movement had its origins in the protests against racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans. The black Americans fought to abolish racial oppression and slavery. The slaves became emancipated during the civil war. This gave them what can be termed as basic civil rights. This came to effect with the passing of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The next century saw the constitutional struggles to have the rights protected by the federal laws. The participants of Civil Rights Movement of 1950s and 60s used nonviolent protests to achieve their goals and objectives. The protestors managed to break the trend of public institutions having demarcations of race in southern America. Their achievement was the greatest since the period between 1865 and 1877, which is commonly referred to as the Reconstruction Era. Between 1964 and 1965, major civil rights legislation was passed into laws to provide protection to black Americans against racial segregation and discrimination. The black American activists viewed their struggles as not only centered on reforms in the area of civil rights but also aiming to fight the political, economic, and cultural repercussions of past racial oppressions.

Women in the Civil Rights Movement

Without doubt, an important aspect of the Civil Rights Movement that has been downplayed is the role of women in it. In point of fact, women were the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement. Their contribution was rather significant and it cannot be ignored or underestimated. Some of the most prominent personalities of the Civil Rights Movement include Ella Baker, Vilola Liuzzo, Angela Davis, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer among others. These women risked their lives so that the generations that followed would enjoy the benefits of social equality and democracy. Although it is commonly assumed that most women in the Civil Rights Movements only worked as secretaries and did minor duties, one should admit that the courage, determination and profound support of these women were essential for achieving the goals and objectives of the Civil Rights Movement. Some of the duties which women activists of the Civil Rights Movement performed included conducting voter registration drives, organizing and facilitating boycotts and protest marches. Below are some of well-known women who played major roles in the Civil Rights Movement.

Ella Josephine Bake

Ella Josephine Bake was a black American activist who worked behind the scenes. Her active participation and involvement in the Civil Rights Movement lasted for more than five decades. Ella Bake worked alongside famous activists like Du Bois and Martin Luther King. She is commonly referred to as the mentor of black activists Diane Nash and Rosa Parks.

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Ella Bake was born in Norfolk, Virginia. She was a strong believer in social equality and participatory democracy. Ella Bake fought for the collective leadership model in the U.S. She believed that the Civil Rights Movement should not copy the organizational model of the black church which mostly had male leaders despite the fact that women formed the majority of the congregation. She argued that the leadership of the Civil Rights Movement had to be changed in order to enable it succeed and achieve its missions. Ella Bake strongly believed that more women should be at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement during the struggle for social equality. She was convinced that women would be more effective leaders of the movement than men. Ella Bake was unenthusiastic about the dominance of men in the leadership of the Civil Rights Movement. As a consequence, she fought for the involvement of more black women in the Civil Rights Movement. Her major efforts included massive recruitment of women to join the movement, spearheading local campaigns against racial segregation and protests, and raising money for the campaigns.

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks

Rosa Parks was a very vocal activist in the Civil Rights Movement. The United States Congress commonly referred to her as the mother of the freedom movement and the first lady of civil rights. Rosa Park’s birthday (the 4th of February) and the day of her arrest (the 1st of December) are known as Rosa Park Day and are observed as public holidays in Ohio and California in the U.S. because of her invaluable contribution to the Civil Rights Movement. Rosa Parks is well known for refusing to obey a directive from a bus driver who ordered her to surrender her seat where African Americans were allowed to sit to a white passenger. This was because the white passengers’ section was filled. Other people who also failed to tolerate racial segregation and discrimination in the public transport system alongside Rosa Parks are Irene Morgan and Sarah Louise Keys. Rosa Parks’ defiance led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which marked the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement . Rosa Parks’ defiance and resistance made her a symbol of the struggle against racial segregation. She also worked hand in hand with icons such as Edgar Nixon and Martin Luther King. Rosa Parks was a determined activist and anti-racist who did not give up the fight against racial segregation and discrimination. Although the actions had both positive and negative consequences in her future life, such as losing a job as a seamstress, she did not forgo the fight. She gained international recognition and honor. Among the accolades she received were the Presidential Medal of freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Today, there is a statue of Rosa Parks at the Capitol Rotunda which was erected in her honor.

Angela Yvonne Davis

Angela Yvonne Davis was a renowned political activist in the United States. She led the Communist Party of the U.S.A. between 1969 and 1991. She also cooperated with the Black Panther Party. Angela Davis is well known for her fight for the rights of prisoners and struggle for the abolition of the prison industries complex. Dannett also affirms that Angela Davis was actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. Angela Davis was fired in 1969 by the University of California where she worked as a professor in the department of History for interfering with Ronald Regan who was the governor of California then. The firing of Angela Davis by the University of California was triggered by her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement and participation in the activities of Communist Party of the U.S. Most people also argued that the firing was caused by her racial origin. One of Davis’ major contributions to the Civil Rights Movement was the struggle for the abolishment of the prison industrial complex, which she considered to be used to spread racial segregation and discrimination rather than justice by the criminal justice system. She also authored numerous books on human rights which were used by activists of the Civil Rights Movement.


Women had proved to equal their male counterparts in the Civil Rights Movement. Despite being faced with numerous challenges, most women succeeded in their fight for social equality. Thus, the examples of Ella Bake, Rosa Parks, and Angela Davis, who were actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement, have proved that women are strong and a force to be reckoned with in the society.

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