Wednesday, August 26, 2020
Angela Dodson, Why Women's Suffrage Matters for Black People
While our collective memory of the suffrage movement is often a vision of a small band of white women — fighting the establishment alone, marching and picketing in their flowy white dresses — the story of the women’s movement was more complicated and nuanced than that. It involved many women, but also men, of different races who had to find their voice, identify allies and build coalitions.
As the centennial of the 19th Amendment’s certification on Aug. 26, 1920, approaches, many African Americans have questioned whether the suffrage movement is relevant to them, because most Black people in the South were disenfranchised anyway. For many African Americans, the movement’s reputation for discriminating against or dismissing Black suffragists and the long history of discord between white and Black feminists do not inspire enthusiasm for the anniversary celebration.
As we approach the centennial and the first presidential election with a Black/Asian woman in the race, the first woman of color on a major political party’s ticket, we should examine how we got the vote and at what cost.
To dismiss the suffrage movement as irrelevant dishonors the many Black women and men who participated — lobbying, debating, lecturing, petitioning, editorializing, parading and picketing alongside white suffragists.
As women are gaining greater leverage in the political system, now is the time to study and credit the contributions of all suffragists and expand our knowledge of the entire movement.
Including Soujourner Truth, Angelina Weld Grimke, Sarah Redmond, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Frances Harper, Josephine Ruffin, Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and many more.
Taken from Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920