Civil Rights She-roes

Civil Rights She-roes
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The six women members of the Little Rock Nine will be the sponsors for the new U.S. Navy submarine, the USS Arkansas. In recognition of this significant honor for these brave activists in the fight for civil rights, this blog profiles some significant civil rights she-roes, all of whom have been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Match the woman with her accomplishment:

____ 1. The youngest of the Little Rock Nine, at age fourteen, in 1957, she was one of the nine students to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

____ 2. Her activism in civil rights occurred as a result of her endeavoring to register to vote in 1962 in Mississippi when she was 45 years old.

____ 3. She organized the Student Nonviolent Coordinating after the Greensboro, North Carolina sit-ins.

____ 4. Participated in the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott and worked to get the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed.

____ 5. Her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus to a white man led to nullification of Montgomery’s segregation laws.

A. Rosa Parks

B. Coretta Scott King

C. Carlotta Walls LaNier

D. Ella Baker

E. Fannie Lou Hamer

When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on the city bus in Montgomery, Alabama on December 1, 1955 and was arrested, she took the first step to become known as “the mother of the civil rights movement.” She was convinced to become the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the segregation laws in the city which were eventually overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Parks said in her memoirs, “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically. . . No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

A significant civil rights activist in her own right Coretta Scott King took part in the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott sparked by Rosa Parks and worked to get the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed. Although she often worked beside her husband Martin Luther King, Jr., she was also active as a public mediator and liaison to peace and justice organizations. After her husband’s death, she established the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Social Change and worked to get her husband memorialized through a national holiday. King said “Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.”

The youngest of the Little Rock Nine, Carlotta Walls LaNier was fourteen years old when she decided that her desire for a better education than was available to her at the segregated high school was outweighed by her trepidation over integrating Little Rock Arkansas’ Central High School. The adverse reactions with which the Little Rock Nine (as the six women and three men who integrated Central High School were called) were met as they tried to start school in 1957 were as bad or worse then feared. The Governor of Arkansas ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent them from entering the school. President Eisenhower then sent in the 101st Airborne who escorted the Little Rock Nine students to school for the remainder of the year. The following year, all public high schools in Little Rock were closed. LaNier was finally able to graduate from Central High School, after the school re-opened as an integrated high school and is today a leader of the Little Rock Nine. The Little Rock Nine have received the Congressional Gold Medal.

Ella Baker’s commitment to social justice was sparked by her grandmother’s stories about life under slavery. As an undergraduate student, she challenged policies that she thought were not fair. Her social activism career then began when she moved to New York City after college graduation. Her work with the NAACP began in 1940 where she worked as a field secretary and then director of branches. In 1957, she moved to Atlanta to organize Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. After the Greensboro, North Carolina sit-ins, Baker organized the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Throughout her life, Baker believed that the right to vote was an important key to freedom.

Fannie Lou Hamer began her civil rights advocacy after endeavoring to register to vote when she was 45 years old. In Mississippi, in 1962, this was not behavior that was encouraged and she lost her job and home as a result. These actions only fortified her now significant resolve to help African Americans get the right to vote. She worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee whose members consisted primarily of students who organized protests and worked for justice for blacks in the South. In the process, she was beaten, arrested and shot at. Hamer helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and brought the cause of civil rights to the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Hamer’s tombstone contains her famous phrase “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. These women who strove for civil rights are among the more than 850 women profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. I am proud to tell their stories and help write them back into history.

(Answers 1-C, 2-E, 3-D, 4-B, 5-A)


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