African-American Woman Suffrage Movement

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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[edit]

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 woman suffrage than had been previously asserted. NAWSA focused on enfranchisement solely for white women.[3] African American women began experiencing the ‘Anti-Black’ woman 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 on 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.

The Women's Suffrage Movement began with Strong women like|Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells,Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, and it progressed on to women like Mary Church Terrell, Ella Baker, Angela Davis and many more. “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 used some of the time to read, to write essays on injustices, and to prepare 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.”[6] All of these women played very important roles contributing to the growing progress and effort to end the African American Women's Suffrage. African American women during the Suffrage Movement were strong women. They were discriminated against, abused, and raped by white Southerners and Northerners, but yet they remained strong and persistent and that has been passed down from generation to generation. It is still carried on in African American families today. From the time she was taken away from Africa, to the slavery days, up to the early civil rights era, and till today, she has always possessed an unseen strength and persistence. "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.[7] It is this strength and persistence of African American women that helped to bring an end the Women's Suffrage Movement era.

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 meant exclusion from having the right to vote. This movement was prevalent in the South but eventually gained momentum in the North as well.[1] African-American women would not be deterred by the rising opposition and became even more aggressive in their campaign to find equality with men and other women. All women that participated in the important movement waited 70+ years

Issues in exercising the vote[edit]

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 Banks who was chosen to serve as a delegate to Kentucky’s Republican Party in March 1920.[1] White southerners took notice of black female activists organizing themselves for suffrage, and after the passage of the nineteenth amendment, black women's voter registration in Florida was higher than white woman's.[5] Due to fears by white people, African-American women found themselves on the receiving end of a number of disenfranchisement methods. These included waiting in line for up to twelve hours to register to vote, head taxes and 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 more difficult circumstances. These 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]

See also[edit]

Biographical links[edit]

Historical links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Terborg-Penn, Rosalyn (1998). African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850–1920. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Prescod, Martha Norman (1997). Shining in the Dark: Black Women and the Struggle for the Vote, 1955–1965. 
  3. ^ a b Buechler, Steven M (1990). Women’s Movement in United States: Woman Suffrage, Equal Rights and Beyond. Rutgers University Press. )
  4. ^ Mezey, Susan Gluck (1997pages=948–949). "The Evolution of American Feminism". The Review of Politics 59 (4). 
  5. ^ a b Terbog-Penn, R (2004). "Discontented black feminists: prelude and postscript to the passage of the nineteenth amendment". In Bobo, J. The Black Studies Reader. New York: Routledge. pp. 65–78. 
  6. ^ Barnett, Bernice McNair. Race, Gender & Class. 2003, Vol. 10 Issue 3, p9-22. (Davis, 1971b; 1974).
  7. ^ Prestage, Jewel (May 1991). "Quest for African American Political Woman". American Academy of Political Science 515 (May): 88. doi:10.1177/0002716291515001008. 
  8. ^ Tindall, George Brown; Shi, David Emory (2010), America: A Narrative History 2