People like Dr. King, Malcom X, Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks are constantly recognized in African-American history, but what about those who are left unrecognized? These are the stories of three of the most unrecognized women in the history of Black America.
Ella Baker worked behind the scenes of the Civil Rights Movement. In the 1930s, she was a very active civil rights leader who worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. Dubois, and Thurgood Marshall, persistently fighting for civil rights and black equality for five decades. She was even a mentor to the infamous Rosa Parks.
Baker was once quoted saying, “You didn’t see me on television; you didn’t see news stories about me. The kind of role that I tried to play was to pick up pieces or put together pieces out of which I hoped organization might come. My theory is—strong people don’t need strong leaders.”
Diane Nash was both a strategist and a leader of the Civil Rights Movement student wing, and also a member of the Freedom Riders. She assisted in the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as well as the Selma Voting Rights Committee (SVRC) campaign. The SVRC campaign helped African Americans in the South get the right to vote and gain more political power.
Nash grew up in a desegregated community in Chicago. Initially, she had wanted to become a nun, due to being raised as a Catholic. She was also known for her beauty, as she became runner-up for Miss Illinois beauty pageant. Her outlook and her path changed, however, when she transferred from Howard University in the North to Fisk University, where she became a first-hand witness to segregation. It was her experiences in the American South that fueled her determination to fight against racial discrimination.
Septima Poinsette Clark
Septima Poinsette Clark is referred to as the “Grandmother of the American Civil Rights Movement.” She was both a civil rights activist as well as an educator, and she played a huge role in fighting for voting rights for African Americans.
While Clark was working as an educator in Charleston back in the 1920s, she worked alongside the NAACP, gathering petitions for African Americans to be allowed to work as principals in the city’s schools. Their dedicated efforts resulted in Charleston’s first black principal.
Clark also diligently taught literacy to African-American adults. She was awarded a Living Legacy Award in 1979 by President James Carter. She also won the American Book award for her second book, an autobiography called “Ready from Within: Septima Clark and the Civil Rights Movement.”