March 9, 2018 - Vol. 1, Issue 23
*Last week's newsletter mistakenly identified the University of Richmond as the University of Virginia. Apologies for the error!
Celebrating Black Women, Pt. 1:
Feminism During the Civil Rights Movement
Above, black feminist group the Combahee River Collective 10
Margo Jefferson
Pearl Cleage
“Above all else, our politics initially sprang from the shared belief that Black women are inherently valuable, that our liberation is a necessity, not as an adjunct to somebody else’s.” 1 -The Combahee River Collective Statement

Yesterday, we celebrated International Women's Day, honoring remarkable women from Shirley Chisolm to modern impactful leaders like Tamika D. Mallory. This month at The HistoryMakers, we’ll reflect back on the lush history of black feminism and womanism in a three part series, highlighting this week the struggle of African American women during the Civil Rights Movement.

Journalism professor and art critic Margo Jefferson notes of the importance of studying black women, “Gender and racism do not cancel each other out. So, the particulars of black women's history, as indeed both black and female, but discriminated against on gender by black men, and on racial terms by white women. So our particular history and position needed its own analysis.” 2 [Margo Jefferson, THMDA 1.5.12].

Of gender in the Civil Rights Movement, Peter John Ling and Sharon Monteith state in Gender and the Civil Rights Movement, “At the outset the post-war Civil Rights Movement was not overtly or consciously concerned with gender inequality.” 3

Patricia Hill Collins agrees, highlighting the suppression of black women activists in Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment , “Traditionally, Black women have either been excluded from or assigned subordinate roles within civil rights, women’s, labor, or other organizations devoted to institutional transformation…the male leadership of Black civil rights organizations found it difficult to see Black women as leaders in the Civil Rights Movement.” 4 In fact, SNCC leader Stokely Carmichael famously joked in 1964 that, “The only position for women in SNCC is prone.” 5

Writer, playwright, poet, essayist and journalist Pearl Cleage recalls reconciling her feminism with the struggle for racial equality during the Civil Rights Movement: “ At that point we still had the feeling that we as conscious black women were supposed to be talking about race, that our men were under siege from white America, and that we needed to be supporting them. We were of course encouraged in thinking this by our men. When you talk about race, black men are the victims. When you talk about gender, they are the oppressors. How do you integrate race and gender? How do you begin to, as a black woman, understand that you have to talk about gender as well as race, because otherwise you’re denying part of what you really are?” 6 [Pearl Cleage, THMDA 1.2.9]. Cleage continues, “It was extremely difficult to get any of the men that I was aware of as being conscious African American men to talk about feminism. My father, Albert B. Cleage, Jr., who was my first progressive man in my life, argued with me until his death about feminism, because he just would not admit that women are discriminated against on the basis of gender. He fought it every step of the way: ‘Women are doing fine, what’s the problem? Women run all the households; women really run the churches; just because you’re not necessarily the pastors doesn’t mean you don’t run it.’ He couldn’t really put himself in that position.” 7 [Pearl Cleage, THMDA 1.3.1].

In fact, the agency that was quietly suppressed during the Civil Rights Movement would later be inversely suppressed by the women's lib movement, as Cindy Hooper states in Conflict: African American Women and the New Dilemma of Race and Gender Politics, “Despite their efforts, many African American women felt discrimination from racial bias in the in the women’s suffrage movement and also felt oppression from gender bias within the civil rights movement.” 8

However, as Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor concludes in How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective , perhaps, “Black women’s experiences cannot be reduced to either race or gender but have to be understood on their own terms.” 9

We look to do so in our coming issues. Happy Women’s History Month!

The HistoryMakers Archive in Action
Marcia Walker-McWilliams 11
For our subscribing institutions this month, check out our mix tape, " Living Intersectional Lives: Black Women on Race and Gender" on The HistoryMakers' website.

The playlist is curated Dr. Marcia Walker-McWilliams , the associate director of the Urban Immersion program in the Center for Civic Leadership at Rice University and the author of Reverend Addie Wyatt: Faith and the Fight for Labor, Gender, and Racial Equality .

Describing her mix tape, Walker-McWilliams states, "This mixtape explores the theme of intersectionality in the lives of black women leaders, activists, artists and thinkers. First coined by black feminist and critical race theorist, Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, intersectionality refers to the ways in which social and political categories such as race, class and gender converge as systems of oppression that contribute to black women’s inequality. The following stories reveal the complex ways in which black women have negotiated their race and gender as they seek pathways for justice, equality and freedom."

On the playlist, viewers can explore stories ranging from Angela Davis talking about gender battles within the Los Angeles SNCC office, to U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters defending her feminism in the California State Assembly.

Check it out! Thank you again to all of our wonderful subscribing institutions!
Please share with us your stories of how you incorporate The HistoryMakers Digital Archive in your curriculum and research. We'd love to hear from you!

This week, 15 new interviews were added to The HistoryMakers Digital Archive:
Marie Dixon

Music executive Marie Dixon (1937 - 2016 ) was the widow of legendary blues musician Willie Dixon and the president of the Blues Heaven Foundation in Chicago.
Bobby Jones

Gospel singer and television host Bobby Jones (1938 - ) was the Grammy Award-winning host and executive producer of BET’s Bobby Jones Gospel , the longest continuously running original series on cable television. He was also the author of two books: Touched By God and Make A Joyful Noise .

Charles Evers

Radio station owner and civic activist Charles Evers (1922 - ) became the field director of the Mississippi NAACP after the assassination of his brother, Medgar Evers. He was elected mayor of Fayette, Mississippi in 1969, becoming Mississippi's first black mayor in the post-Reconstruction era.
Solomon Herbert

Journalist and photographer Solomon Herbert (1939 - ) served as the second national vice president of the Congress of Racial Equality, and as president of the Bronx CORE. He published over 800 articles as a journalist, and cofounded Black Meetings & Tourism magazine.
Leonard Pitts

Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts (1957 - ) won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. He was a columnist at the Miami Herald for two decades, and the author of Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood , Before I Forget , Forward from This Moment: Selected Columns, 1994-2008 , and Freeman .
Eunice Trotter

Newspaper editor Eunice Trotter (1953 - ) was the first African American woman to own the Indiana Recorder and the first African American woman to serve as an editor at the Indianapolis Star .
Art Gilliam, Jr.

Radio station owner Art Gilliam, Jr. (1943 - ) was president, CEO and owner of Gilliam Communications, Inc. and WLOK, the first African American-owned Memphis radio station and the city's first locally owned station. He was the first African American to write for The Commercial Appeal and the first African American on-air reporter and anchor on Memphis television at WMC-TV.
Clarice Tinsley

Broadcast journalist Clarice Tinsley (1953 - ) was an evening news anchor at KDFW-TV in Dallas, Texas for over thirty-five years.
Pierre Sutton

Broadcast executive Pierre Sutton (1947 - ) was the cofounder of The New York Courier and president of the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation. He also served as the inaugural vice president of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB).

Soledad O'Brien

Broadcast journalist Soledad O'Brien (1966 - ) founded the Starfish Media Group, and anchored national television news programs like NBC’s The Site and American Morning, and CNN’s In America .
Tina Lewis

Restaurant owner and operator Tina Lewis (1948 - ) managed twenty McDonald’s restaurant franchises in partnership with her husband, Harold Lewis.
Sheila Talton

Technology executive Sheila Talton (1952 - ) had extensive global operations experience as a business leader and entrepreneur in the information technology industry. She founded Gray Matter Analytics in 2013.

Patricia Andrews-Keenan

Media executive and public relations executive Patricia Andrews-Keenan (1954 - ) was the founder and chief strategist of the Tallulah Group. She worked as an executive in the cable and telecommunications industry for over twenty years.

Johnny Shaw

Radio station owner and state representative Johnny Shaw (1942 - ) was the cofounder and CEO of Shaw's Broadcasting Company, LLC, and owner of the WBOL and WOJG Radio stations in Bolivar, Tennessee. He was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 2000.

Margo Jefferson

Journalism professor and art critic Margo Jefferson (1947 - ) won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1995 while working as a culture critic at The New York Times. She was the author of On Michael Jackson , and the National Book Critics Circle Award winning memoir, Negroland .
1.   Combahee River Collective Statement,
2.        Margo Jefferson (The HistoryMakers A2017.007), interviewed by Harriette Cole, January 20, 2017, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 5, story 12, Margo Jefferson talks about the women's movement
3.        Ed. Peter John Ling, Sharon Monteith, Gender and the Civil Rights Movement. Rutgers University Press. April 26, 2004.
4.        Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Routledge, June 1, 2002.
5.   Susan Brownmiller, In Our Time, Dial Books. 1999
6.   Pearl Cleage (The HistoryMakers A2004.177), interviewed by Jodi Merriday, September 23, 2004, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 9, Pearl Cleage shares her perspective on how women were treated within the Civil Rights Movement
7.   Pearl Cleage (The HistoryMakers A2004.177), interviewed by Jodi Merriday, September 23, 2004, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 3, story 1, Pearl Cleage describes the resistance to feminism among politically radical men during the 1960s and 1970s
8.        Cindy Hooper, Conflict: African American Women and the New Dilemma of Race and Gender Politics. ABC-CLIO. June 20, 2012.
9.        Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective. Haymarket Books, November 20, 2017.
11.    Marcia Walker-McWilliams. Can be found at:
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