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Black Women Were in the Suffrage Movement

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Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are the names most associated with the Suffrage Movement, but black women were in suffrage movement too. They played a major role. Did you know that? Do you know who they are?

This year is the centennial celebration of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which extended the right to vote to women, more accurately white women. It took almost another 50 years for black women to be truly extended and allowed to exercise the right to vote without barriers and burdens.

black women were in the suffrage movement

Black Women Were in the Suffrage Movement. Photo Credit: Cannasue

The previous passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870 was supposed to bar states from denying black (Negro) men the right to vote. Clearly, that amendment was not effectively enacted. Black men and women were afforded a stronger position to exercise the right to vote with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Sadly, almost 50 years later, TODAY, blacks are still fighting for and trying to protect their right to vote.

But back to the subject at hand. The true story about the role of black women in the Suffrage Movement is rarely told. Sadly, despite their work alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, both Anthony and Stanton chose to play the race card when it came to the public acknowledgement of the work of black suffragists. Black women were in the Suffrage Movement and played a major role. Do you know their names? Do you know who they are?

Not only were there black women who worked alongside Anthony and Stanton to get the right to vote for women, but so did the great black abolitionist and orator, Frederick Douglass. He was a staunch supporter of women’s rights and never compromised that position. The same cannot be said about Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton when it came to standing shoulder to shoulder with their black sisters who worked in the movement.

Black women were in the Suffrage Movement, but as they neared their goal of achieving passage of the 19th Amendment, racism raised its ugly head. They had no visible role in the famed suffrage convention convened in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. During the huge suffragist parade in Washington, D.C. in 1913, the black suffragists had to march in an all-black assembly at the back of the parade. They were not allowed to march with their state delegations.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and the organizers succumbed to the Jim Crow laws and white supremacy so prevalent at the time. They thought if black women were visible it would jeopardize passage of the amendment.

Black women were in the Suffrage Movement. Take some time and get to know them, beginning with Ida B. Wells and Mary Church Terrell. They spent their lives fighting for the rights of blacks and women, including the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Feature Photo Credit:  Ponomariova_Maria

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Janice Ellis
Janice Ellis
Janice S. Ellis, PhD, is an award-winning author. Her book, From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other major book sellers. She has written a column for newspapers, radio, and now online, where she analyzes educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. You can see her writings on this website.


  1. Willie Anderson says:

    In my earlier post I incorrectly mentioned the 15th Amendment when it should have been the 19th Amendment.

  2. Willie Anderson says:

    Black women were sacrificed upon the altar of political expediency. The Jim Crow laws in existence at the time merely codified what white people in the South had been doing to redeem their dominant political position they had lost along with the Civil War. So it would seem that political expediency is the driving force behind political decisions and it is extremely difficult to heap praise upon a political decision to include a Black woman on the Democratic presidential ticket when political expediency demands it. Racism when is used when it is politically advantageous to use it. Right now the current occupant of the White House is using racism to divide the country’s political voting blocs into discrete slices to be pitted against each other in hopes that a narrow path to victory can be charted. The Democrats have also used racism to assist them in their political calculation to win back the Oval Office. The Democrats clearly understand that Black women and white suburban women will be the coalition that will give them the margin of victory in the Presidential election. So racism is simply a tactical weapon that is used in times of political expediency and will seldom be separated from it. It is what it is.

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