These 19 black women fought for voting rights

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tags: Black History Month, suffrage, voting rights, womens history, black womens history

Nsenga K. Burton is an award-winning professor, multimedia journalist, filmmaker and producer. She is co-director of the Film and Media Management concentration at Emory University in the Department of Film and Media Studies, where she teaches courses on Hollywood's entertainment industries, content creation and special topics like Reality Television and Hip-Hop Media. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual. 

August 18, 2020 marks 100 years since the ratification of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing all American women “suffrage,” or the right to vote. The dominant narrative about the women’s suffrage movement is framed through the experiences of white women (and to some extent, abolitionist Frederick Douglass, a noted and outspoken supporter of women's rights). But African-American women played a major role in obtaining the right to vote even though many of them would not truly enjoy the right themselves to the same extent until decades later.  

In 1872, Susan B. Anthony attempted to vote in the presidential election and was arrested and tried in Rochester, New York. In Battle Creek, Michigan, Sojourner Truth demanded a ballot and was turned away. The suffrage movement was in full swing.

Women’s rights activists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Betsy Ross, who championed gender equity, didn't feel the same about race. While many white suffragists worked to help eradicate the institution of slavery, they did not work to ensure that former slaves would have citizenship or voting rights.

“Black women were not accounted for in white women’s push for suffrage. Their fight wasn’t about women writ large. It was about white women obtaining power – the same power as their husbands, black women and black men be damned,” says Howard University Assistant Professor Jennifer D. Williams.


“There was a concerted effort by white women suffragists to create boundaries towards black women working in the movement,” says historian and author Michelle Duster.  “White women were more concerned with having the same power as their husbands, while black women saw the vote as a means to improving their conditions."

Read entire article at USA Today

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