It is so important to never forget our past as we look to the future of who we are. This is one of the many reasons that I felt it necessary to pay homage to some of the extraordinary women that helped shape my world view as an African-American woman.
Yesterday we celebrated Rosa Parks, Clara Luper, Fannie Lou Hamer, Diane Nash, and Elizabeth Eckford. If you missed yesterday’s post, I hope you’ll go back and read it!
Coretta Scott King (1927 – 2006)
“Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul!”
“Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won; you earn it and win it in every generation.”
Though she held a degree in voice and violin from the New England Conservatory of Music, King, alongside her famous husband, became a civil rights leader in her own right. After his assassination in 1968, she championed the building of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change as a living memorial to her husband’s work.
Prathia Hall (1940 – 2002)
“Negroes must also bear the desecration of humanity that is segregation. For we have been silent much too long. We’ve been preoccupied with telling out city power structure not what it needs to know, but what it wants to hear. We are here today because we can no longer bear the shame of our guilt; because delay means compromising our dignity… we are here today to serve notice on the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia. We are tired of segregation and we want equality now!”
In 1978, Hall followed after her father to become a Baptist preacher in Philadelphia. Before that, as a civil rights activist in Georgia, she was shot by a white gunman, shot at by police and jailed many times. A powerful orator, her signature phrase, “I have a dream,” may have inspired MLK’s most famous speech.
Ella Josephine Baker (1903 – 1986)
“Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s son, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens!”
In a largely behind-the-scenes career that spanned more than five decades, Ella Josephine Baker worked with many famous civil rights leaders including the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall and A. Philip Randolph. In 1957, King’s request, she became Executive Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
“I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the committment, the fairness, and the family that so many people black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving and loving are all about.”
Loving was thrust into the civil rights movement when she and her husband, who was white, were arrested by the sheriff of Central Point, Va., for violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924. The landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision in their case struck down antimiscegenation laws still on the books in 16 states.
Dorothy Height (1912 – 2010)
“Greatness is not measured by what a man or woman accomplishes but by the opposition he or she has overcome to reach his goals.”
“A Negro woman has the same kind of problems as other women, but she can’t take the same things for granted.”
Height was “both the grande dame of the civil rights era and its unsung heroine,” as the New York Times once put it. The longtime president of the National Council of Negro Women and a prize-winning orator, she was a key organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. (Her male counterparts, however, allowed no women to speak that day.
Well this exploration into our collective past has been so eye-opening for me. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Let me know your thoughts and let’s keep the conversation going!
— Felicia M. Lopes | The Busy Gal