During the civil rights movement, women played major roles that I think are often overlooked by the accomplishments of men. Women like Anne Moody and Miriam Anderson contributed greatly to the movement. They led organizations, they were lawyers, and they were on the front lines dying for the fight for black rights. Here are a few women we don’t hear about too often when learning about the civil rights movement:
Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons-a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She fought for gaining resources and aid in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer.
Doris Adelaide Derby- another SNCC activist, she encouraged local women to join the cause as well as helping with voting drives and rallies. Her efforts helped members of
Ruby Nell Sales- She worked closely with efforts to stop bus segregation and even overcame psychological trauma from the movement. She encouraged people look deeper than what Rosa Parks did and to keep pushing for effective techniques of civil disobedience.
Around the time Black Panther came out in China, I saw an article ( https://qz.com/1226449/a-torture-for-the-eyes-chinese-moviegoers-think-black-panther-is-too-black/ ) that discussed the response of Chinese moviegoers to the movie. As I’m sure most of you know, the movie stars a mostly black cast with only a few caucasian characters. The movie is about a superhero but has many underlying themes of black power and nationalism. In this article, the response to Black Panther in China that was discussed was overwhelmingly prejudiced. Chinese people interviewed described the movie as aesthetically unpleasing because it was to dark, in reference to the main casts skin color. Though this can be blamed on ignorance since China has a very lacking population when it comes to diversity, but I remember thinking that such an ignorant response would be hard to come by in my daily life. Yet, within an hour, I was scrolling through the comments of another post on Black Panther and I came across a thread of commentators arguing the fact that the film should have been named differently because people believed it to be about the Black Panther movement, and so they felt turned off by that. I have seen this reaction to the Black Panther Party before due to stereotypes and myths perpetrated by the government back in the 60’s to villainize the Black Panther Party. What struck me as so unbelievable was that people didn’t think to look at a synopsis, trailer, or even a poster to see that the movie wasn’t a fictional account of the Black Panther Party. Though there is mention of the party in the movie, it is not the basis of the film, and the fact that people were so quick to ignorantly villainize a movie because of the mere use of a term such as Black Panther shocked and annoyed me. But it helped me remember that not everybody has the same education as I do and that unfortunately I shouldn’t be surprised by this kind of behavior on a Facebook comment section.
While doing the final exam essay, I focused on Anne Moody’s “A Coming of Age in Mississippi” and how the tactics for black rights of SNCC differed from that of Martin Luther King’s. While researching I came across an interesting video that is a live action trailer based on the reading of the book. The trailer does a good job relaying the same information and getting major plot points of the story right.
In my final essay I chose to talk about the article we read earlier in the semester, Where Were the Women in the March on Washington? by Jennifer Scanlon and I realized that there wasn’t a prominent disconnect between men and women in just the Civil Rights Movement, but also the Black Power Movement. Women of color have always been dealt the worse hand in the US because they are a part of two different groups that are both discriminated against heavily in the US, but simultaneously. In the black power movement, I was specifically thinking of the author Zora Neale Hurston, who most notably wrote the book Their Eyes Were Watching God. This book handled the fictional story of a black woman and her life growing up in the south. The character faced both ends of discrimination, gender and racial, which is a similar testament to the author, Hurston. Initially, Hurston worked closely with famous Harlem authors such as Langston Hughes, but when she began to write more radically and show her opinions, they were rejected by society, both white and black, and she was outcasted by Hughes and the other Harlem writers she had become a colleague with. I find it very ironic how both the black power and civil rights movements were for freedom and equality, and yet within the black community, there was so much rampant sexism. I think this shows how even though there has been a great amount of progress in our country in terms of human equality, there is always more work to be done.
When I took African American History in high school I knew very little about Malcolm X except that he was a part of the civil rights movement and was treated as the opposite of MLK. My teacher chose to have our class mostly focus on the civil rights movement through Malcolm X’s story and I remember thinking just how wrong all the preconceived notions were about him. He didn’t advocate for violence anytime anywhere, he advocated for the right to defend oneself from harm. He wanted people to fight for themselves and protect their own. I can see how this could be easily misconstrued by media at the time, most likely purposefully, because the idea of African Americans protecting themselves is seen as unacceptable since they were seen as inferior to white people back then.
I liked the fact that we focused more on MLK in ths class because it gave me a new perspective of the Civil Rights Movement that I hadn’t previously been taught. My high school class focused on Malcolm X as an activist, but also a muslim and, a human who made mistakes. I think often MLK is treated as a saint, which isnt necessarily a bad thing, but it does disconnect him from others almost as if he had the only way to proceed in the Civil Rights Movement.
I think it is important to acknowledge that there were many different approaches by activist and organizations to forward the civil rights movement and I’m glad this class acknowledged that since it is often not the picture painted by schools in America.