When students first get to learn about the Civil Rights Movement in their history class, they most likely will talk about leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., and at times maybe even Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks. There is no mention of Ella Baker, Septima Poinsette Clark, or any other female leader involved in the Civil Rights Movement. All of this, gives the students the impression that men were the only ones involved in leading the movement, making it seem that women were just at home watching this all happen. This of course was not what happened, for there were plenty of women involved. Sadly, countless numbers of the female leaders were hardly mentioned. At the time, women were never actually allowed to do much compared to what they can do now, which is the reason why their contributions were mostly excluded. People were more biased towards black men, in contrast, just as Charles Payne exclaimed, “Men led, but women organized.” In other words, although men were the ones who got the credit, women were working behind the scenes, which had helped with the improvement of all the work done. Subsequently, the Civil Rights Movement was composed of numerous leaders, but much of the work that helped shape the movement for what it had become was impacted by the female leaders involved, such as Rosa Parks, Gloria Richardson, and plenty of others, though most of their work was overlooked.
Gladly, most women did not see their gender as a restriction, for they found various ways to get invol...
ved in order to help with the movement. In fact, some even seem to forget that the Civil Rights Movement all started because of a woman, whose name was Rosa Parks, for without her help, people wouldn’t have been inspired to push for change and start the Civil Rights Movement when they did. To illustrate, it happened in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 1955. That day Rosa Parks took a seat in the middle of a bus behind the whites-only section. After stopping to pick up a few more passengers, the driver ordered the black seamstress to yield her seat to a white passenger and move further back. However, Rosa Parks refused. Her subsequent arrest angered local black activists, including Dr. King. They formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and began a bus boycott that pushed the drive for desegregation into the light and propelled King to national prominence (source). Refusing her seat was the cause of the initiation of the Civil Rights Movement, and the chain of events that occurred afterwards, or as stated in the article “ Rosa Parks: mother of the Civil Rights Movement 1913-2005,” Malcolm R. West exclaims, “Though she did not know what it would become, Rosa Parks nurtured the seed of freedom planted in her generations before, as she became the mother of the Civil Rights Movement. For it all began when she refused to give up her seat and at that moment in Montgomery, AL, gave birth to a cry for equality that would be consoled by nothing less.” This just goes to show how muc
Rosa Parks had influenced the start of the movement, for when she did it, she didn’t realize what was to come as consequences of her actions, but she did in fact know what she was doing when she choose to refuse her seat. ‘People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that wasn’t true,’ Parks said in her autobiography Rosa Parks: My Story. ‘I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in’ (Tired of giving in, Rosa Parks sat). In a way, her refusing her seat was a small step into protesting the inequality that occurred during her time, for as stated before, she knew exactly what she was doing, for she had gotten tired of the unfair treatment she had to go through. Without knowing, her small denial of her seat had provoked the need for change. So, this just goes on to show how the impact of women in the movement is going to go, for it was a woman who started it all.
Furthermore, women did a variety of work correlating to the movement, and the growth of it, even if plenty of them went unnoticed due to the fact that they were female. We’re first going to start with Gloria Richardson, which in fact, barely any people know about her, but just because she wasn’t as well known or as popular as Martin Luther King Jr., doesn’t mean that she wasn’t able to affect the movement. Gloria Richardson was the daughter of a successful drugstore owner, a graduate of Howard University, and mother of two children, a woman who took charge of the struggle. It was said that she found begging for basic rights demeaning and at one point actually encouraged blacks to vote against a city referendum on integration (Wiseman). However, Gloria Richardson was able to start the Cambridge movement, but due to her somewhat aggressive manner, she was mostly criticized, and due to her being a woman, she was mostly not taken into account. Though it was nonviolent, the group was more aggressive than other civil rights groups. It fought for the desegregation of public institutions and for better economic rights of black citizens. Nevertheless, as illustrated by Bettina Aptheker in her article “Freedom’s Architects,” it is expressed, “In a long, stunning essay, Gloria Richardson, who led the movement in Cambridge, Maryland, describes her own radical, not-so-pacific militancy-which led to her unfortunate exclusion from the platform honoring the women of the movement at the 1963 March on Washington. Finally allowed on stage, she managed to get out the word ‘hello’ before an NAACP official yanked the microphone from her hand. The moments of division, anger, and hurt are also part of the story.” This example is able to demonstrate how women were overlooked. Whist Richardson became the leader of the Cambridge movement, she was still unappreciated only