Mothers of the Movement

As we conclude Women's History Month, I want to lift up the contributions of women in the modern Civil Rights Movement. The story of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 60's tends to focus on the men who were visible leaders, the most famous of whom was Martin Luther King, Jr. Without minimizing their gifts and sacrifices, we should not ignore the crucial role of women in the struggle for freedom. Even at the time, the contributions of women took a back seat to their male counterparts. Yet from the beginning, women provided the majority of participants in the various campaigns and some provided leadership that made historic contributions to the struggle for racial justice and equality. Along with each name listed below (Septima Clark, Ella Baker, Diane Nash, and Fannie Lou Hamer), there is a corresponding video giving additional information and appreciation for their lives and witness. This is only a representative list of four women and does not include others of equal significance such as Mary McLeod Bethune, Rosa Parks, Dorothy Height, Bernice Reagon and many more. The final video is a song by Sweet Honey in the Rock called "Ella's Song." It was written in honor of Ella Baker but summarizes the spirit of all the women in the movement.  I hope it inspires each of us to learn more about and give thanks for the Mothers of the Movement:

Septima Clark led the Citizen School Project that taught thousands of African Americans to read, write, and participate in local and national efforts to exercise their full rights as citizens:

Ella Baker helped to found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was also the interim-director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference:

Diane Nash was known for being fearless as one of the early student leaders in both the lunch counter sit-ins and the freedom rides:

Fannie Lou Hamer grew up as a poor share cropper but became a courageous leader known for her gripping testimony at the Democratic National Convention of 1964 as well as for being an inspiring song leader in civil rights campaigns: