While studying the Civil Rights Movement during college, somewhere along the way I heard about a young woman who, as one prof put it, "sat before Rosa Parks sat." However, this nameless woman was ultimately deemed "unfit" to serve as the test case to trigger the Montgomery boycott, which would precipitate the Movement. Why was she considered unfit? Well, as the story went, the young woman (actually a 15-year-old girl) became pregnant by an older, married man, and so the more reputable Rosa Parks took center stage. Read on to find out more about Claudette Colvin's "forgotten contribution."
The leaders of the [women's suffrage] movement trembled on seeing a tall, gaunt black woman in a gray dress and white turban, surmounted with an uncouth sunbonnet, march deliberately into the church, walk with the air of a queen up the aisle, and take her seat upon the pulpit steps. A buzz of disapprobation was heard all over the house, and there fell on the listening ear, 'An abolition affair!" "Woman's rights and niggers!""I told you so!" "Go it, darkey!" . . Again and again, timorous and trembling ones came to me and said, with earnestness, "Don't let her speak, Mrs. Gage, it will ruin us. Every newspaper in the land will have our cause mixed up with abolition and niggers, and we shall be utterly denounced." My only answer was, "We shall see when the time comes."
--First-wave feminist Frances Gage, reflecting on the occasion of Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" speech
Given the current economic crisis (and the fact that Slumdog Millionaire cleaned up at last night's Oscars), it seemed high time we dedicated the Adventures in Feministory segment of the blog to a woman who was all about the Benjamins. We could all use a little financial inspiration these days, right?
So stop clipping those coupons, put off your dumpster diving until the weather gets a little warmer, and read on to learn more about Madam CJ Walker, the first African American woman to become a self-made millionaire. Let's hope that her entrepeneurial spirit and skill at crafting hair care products for black women (her specialty) will inspire some of us to follow in her feministory footsteps.
It's so interesting to listen to this last speech of MLK's right now, while we're in the middle of the time we're in. It's interesting how similar the message MLK is giving to Obama's--and many people are making quite a show of connecting the two (ahem, mainstream media??). But what I find even more interesting is the differences. Both MLK and Obama talk about making the U.S. a better nation--but there are important differences that each man takes to get there.