Thursday, 22 January 2015


   BLACK        SOCIAL        HISTORY                                                                                                                                                                                    

African-American Woman Suffrage Movement

As the women's suffrage movement gained popularity, African-American women were increasingly marginalized.[1] African-American women dealt not only with the sexism of being withheld the vote but also the racism of white suffragists. The struggle for the vote did not end with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.[1] In some Southern states, African American women were unable to freely exercise their right to vote up until the 1960s.[2] However, these difficulties did not deter African-American women in their effort to SECURE the vote.

Marginalizing African American women                                                                                                                                                                                                In 1890, two rival organizations, the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association, merged to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).[3] As NAWSA began gaining support for its cause, its members realized the exclusion African-American women would gain greater support, resulting in the adoption of a more narrow view of women's suffrage than had been previously asserted. NAWSA focused on enfranchisement solely for white women.[3] African-American women began experiencing the "Anti-Black" women's suffrage movement.[4] The National Woman Suffrage Association considered the Northeastern Federation of Colored Women's Clubs to be a liability to the association due to Southern white women's attitudes toward black women getting the vote.[5] Southern whites feared African-Americans gaining more political advantage and thus power; African-American women voters would help to achieve this change.

The women's suffrage movement began with women such as Harriet TubmanIda B. WellsSojourner TruthRosa Parks, and it progressed to women like Mary Church Terrell,Ella BakerAngela Davis, and many others. All of these women played very important roles, contributing to the growing progress and effort to end African-American women's disenfranchisement. These women were discriminated against, abused, and raped by white southerners and northerners, yet they remained strong and persistent, and that strength has been passed down from generation to generation. It is still carried on in African-American families today. "African American women, have been political activists for their entire history on the American continent but long denied the right to vote and hold office, have resorted to nontraditional politics.[6]
After her arrest in 1970, “Davis became a political prisoner. National and international protests to free Angela were mobilized around the world. During the two years that she spent in prison, Davis read, to wrote essays on injustices, and prepared as co-counsel for her own defense. Eventually, Davis was released on bail in 1972 and later acquitted of all criminal charges at her jury trial.”[7]

The "Educated Suffragist"[edit]

The main push of NAWSA's movement was to marginalize as many African-American women as possible. Through this effort developed the idea of the “educated suffragist.”[1]This was the notion that being educated was an important pre-requisite for being allowed the right to vote. Since many African-American women were uneducated, this notion meant exclusion from the right to vote. This movement was prevalent in the South but eventually gained momentum in the North as well.[1] African-American women were not deterred by the rising opposition and became even more aggressive in their campaign to find equality with men and other women. All the African-American women who PARTICIPATED in this important struggle against their exclusion from the women's suffrage movement waited seventy years or more to see the fruits of their labour.

Issues in exercising the vote

Despite the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, African-American women, particularly those inhabiting Southern states, still FACED a number of issues.[1][8] At first, African-American women in the North were easily able to REGISTER to vote, and quite a few became actively involved in politics.[2] One such woman was Annie Simms Bankswho was chosen to serve as a delegate to Kentucky’s Republican Party in March 1920.[1] White southerners took notice of African-American female activists organizing themselves for suffrage, and after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, African-American women's voter registration in Florida was higher than white women's.[5] Because of white people's fears about them wielding political power, African-American women found themselves TARGETED by a number of disenfranchisement methods. These included having to wait in line for up to twelve hours to register to vote, pay head taxes, and undergo new tests.[1] One of the new tests required that African-American women read and interpret the Constitution before being deemed eligible to vote.[2] In the South, African-American women faced even more severe obstacles to voting. These obstacles included bodily harm and fabricated charges designed to land them in jail if they attempted to vote.[2] This treatment of African-American women in the South CONTINUED up until the 1960s.[2]