Although women played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement, they were not given the necessary attention they deserved. Their names are lost in the pages of history.
People all over the United States celebrate Martin Luther King Jr's birthday, but little do they know that King, without the support, hard work and help from women, would not have achieved as much as he did. In fact, it was Rosa Parks' act of defiance that ignited the national Civil Rights Movement. Let us learn more about these women.
Called the 'Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement', Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (February 4, 1913 - October 24, 2005) was an African-American civil rights activist. According to the Montgomery law in 1955, if the bus was crowded, no passenger was required to stand up and give up their seat.
However, bus conductors at the time had acquired a practice of making black people give up their seats, in case a white person was left standing. On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks broke this law - she refused to obey the order of bus driver James Blake to give her seat to a white man.
This led the conductor to call police. She was the first black who had resisted. Her act of defiance became a national symbol and many more followed her by not giving up their seats. This event led to Montgomery Bus Boycott, igniting the Civil Rights movement.
She later, helped Martin Luther King launch national Civil Rights Movement. Recalling her act of defiance years later, she said, "When that white driver stepped back toward us, when he waved his hand and ordered us up and out of our seats, I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night."
Jo Ann Robinson
Jo Ann Gibson Robinson (1912 - 1992) was a civil rights activist and educator in Montgomery, Alabama, who helped Rosa Parks fight for the racial justice in 1955. Back in 1949, she herself had been a victim of racial abuse when she was verbally accused by a bus driver.
In 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man and was arrested, Robinson, with permission from Parks, mimeographed 35,000 handbills and called for a boycott of Montgomery buses.
The boycott continued for a year and Montgomery Improvement Association was established. Martin Luther king became the president of the association and Robinson served its executive board.
Ella Josephine Baker (December 13, 1903 - December 13, 1986) was one of the first African-American civil and human rights activists in 1930s. She mentored young civil rights leaders such as Rosa Parks, Diane Nash, Bob Mosses, etc.
She worked for about 5 decades but, we do not know much about her, because she was a behind-the-scenes activist. Her words, "Remember, we are not fighting for the freedom of the Negro alone, but for the freedom of the human spirit a larger freedom that encompasses all mankind.", will always be remembered.
Had it not been the efforts of these African-American women, Martin Luther King would never had made the achievements he has and blacks would not have gained the racial justice. Hats off to these women who despite myriad hurdles, made it happen.