Human rights activists like Martin Luther King Jnr. and Malcom X are usually praised for the active role they played in liberation of black people. There are, however, those activists that are almost forgotten, the women. Names of Women like Rosa Parks and Ella Baker are some of the names that appear in the books of history that dare give a chance to women rights activists. Rosa Parks is the most popular Female activist.
Author Danielle McGuire in her piece "At the Dark End of the Street" describes Rosa Parks as a sweet elderly woman who spontaneously refused to give up her seat in a bus for a white male (McGuire 4). This incident occurred on 1st December 1955 and sparked off a boycott that went ahead to last for a whole year. The boycott ignited by Park's act is popularly referred to as Montgomery Bus boycott. It must be noted that it is this boycott that later brought into the limelight other famous male activists like King and Malcolm X.
Female activists played both direct and indirect role in civil movements. There are those women that held leadership position in movements like the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Others ensured that movements' leaders were well provided for while others went ahead and ensured that all venues that hosted rallies were well organized. It must be said that, at some point the resistance of women against sexual exploitation by White males that contributed greatly to formation of civil societies. McGuire narrates the story of how a young black woman, Recy Taylor, became a victim of gang rape but she (Taylor) refused to keep silent. The victim's decision to report her ordeal to authorities exposed inhumane acts that were being meted on black women. Apart from exposing the ills, black women also played led to liberalization in other ways.
Female activist Ela Baker, for instance, played a charismatic role as a labor organizer and a Christian leader in the south. Her role involved education women and girls that they needed not to place a lot of emphasis on leaders. She advised that every woman, young or old, needed to stand up and define their destiny. Septima Clark or popular known as "queen mother" of human rights activism was played a role that many other civil rights leaders could not play so effectively. This activist, being a leader of National Association for Advancement of Colored People, educated women about equality. For more than a decade, Clark spent most of time in meetings with local women educating them on the importance of understanding that no race is superior to the other.
Fannie Lou Hamer is yet another female activist whose role in the south cannot be ignored. This activists is popularly known for the beating she reaceived when she once tried to register as a voter. Despite that beating, Hamer went ahead and started the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Her moving speeches always moved crowds and left them fiercer. Vivian Malone Jones is another activist who played a significant role during the civil movements' era. This activist had the opportunity of working at US Justice Department. She used the opportunity of working in this department to ensure that all were treated equally and with human dignity that they deserved.
Jim Crow was a series of extremely rigid and racist laws. These laws were meant to portray blacks as inferior and at the same time making whites appear as superior to all races. From 1877 to1960s African Americans were treated as second class citizens. All, including church clergy men supported segregation claiming that God allowed it. It is from this Jim Crow that the notion of "a black woman's body was not her's alone" came in. Black women were made to believe that white men had authority over their (black women's) body.
From these believe black women would always find themselves being victims of rape. Black people's newspapers and magazines would always report of incidences where black women would get raped by white man on their way from church, work or school. Authorities condoned this evil and so women felt that reporting would not help much. Recy Taylor's case is one of the cases highlighted by McGuire were an all white jurist failed to indict rape suspects (McGuire 10). In addition, rape acted as a way of intimidating blacks and showing them that they had superior masters who had power to control their lives.
Women activists like their male counterparts would hold rallies as a way of driving home their point. This, however, was only done by a few numbers of women like Fannie Lou Hamer. Most women activist chose to play it cool and thus opted for other "safer" methods. Education was seen by women activist as an important tool that would bring the much needed change. Women could thus educate their colleagues on their personal and human rights. Boycotts were other means that women could make their voices heard.
In conclusion, it is just fair to note that Rosa Parks's incident of 1st December 1955 is one of the most noticeable incidences that ignited the beginning of civil rights activism. Her refusal to surrender a front bus seat to a white male, earned support from fellow black women. From this incident a boycott that lasted a year made the legislative house abolish bus segregation laws. From the Montgomery bus boycott, activists like King came into lime light.
Civil rights movements later sprang up and eventually brought liberation that led to abolition of Jim Crows laws and many other laws that segregated people along their racial lines. Danielle McGuire piece "At the Dark End of the Street --A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power", clearly narrates how women acts such as rape played a pivotal role in establishment of civil movements.