Sunday, September 16, 2012

Black Women's Voices on Voting and Politics

“In the summer of 1965 Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which eliminated all literacy tests.  After that, people in Alabama did not have to answer twenty-four questions.  They could register to vote if they could sign their name in cursive.  It didn’t take us but twenty minutes in Selma, Alabama, to teach a woman to write her name.  The white students took her to the courthouse.  She wrote her name in cursive writing and came back with a number that meant she could register to vote. This is the way we did it.” ~ Septima Clark (1898-1987), educator and voting/civil rights activist (Ready from Within)

Of course, I don’t know very much
   About these politics,
But I think that some who run ‘em
   Do mighty ugly tricks.
When we want to school our children
   If the money isn’t there,
Whether black or white have took it,
   The loss we all must share,
And this buying up each other
   Is somthin worse than mean.
Though I think a heap of voting,
   I go for voting clean.”   ~  Francis Ellen Harper (1825-1911), Sketches of Southern Life (1896)

If white American women, with all their natural and acquired advantages, need the ballot, that right protective of all other rights; if Anglo Saxons have been helped by it—and they have—how much more do Black Americans, male and female need the strong defense of a vote to help secure them their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?  And neither do the colored citizens of the Republic lag behind in the fundamental duties of tax-paying and using the elective franchise.  The price of their freedom as far as that freedom has progressed, was too dear a price to be treated lightly.” ~ Adelle Hunt Logan (1863-1915), educator and activist

“And gentlemen, I warn you no longer to stand out in refusing the right to which we contend; in trying to withhold from these noble ladies here and their darker sisters the franchise they now demand.  Miss Anthony and Mrs. Stanton, with their high moral and intellectual power, have shaken the states of New England, and the shock is felt here today… Woman has a power within herself, and the God that reigns above, who commanded Moses to lead the children of Israel from out of the land Egypt, from out of the house of bondage, who walled the waters of the Red Sea, who endowed Samson with power to slay his enemies with the jawbone of an ass, who furnished Abraham Lincoln with knowledge to write the emancipation proclamation, whereby four million Blacks were free—that God, our God, is with and for us, and will hear the call of woman, and her rights will be granted, and she shall be permitted to vote.” ~ Naomi Talbert (Anderson) [1814-1894], writer and lecturer, pioneer in black women’s suffrage movement

“By a miracle the 19th Amendment has been ratified.  We women have now a weapon of defense, which we have never possessed before. It will be a shame and a reproach to us if we do not use it”   ~ Mary Church Terrell, 1920 [1863-1954], educator, activist, professional lecturer

“It is important that I never made the rights of women or of blacks a primary theme of my campaign but insisted on making my role that of a potential voice for all the out-groups, those included.  As best I could, I tried to keep stressing the principle that our government cannot keep on being primarily responsive to the privileged white upper classes but must serve the human needs of every citizen.  Long unmet needs for housing, health care, pensions on which the aged can live decently, effective schools everywhere, including the poorest neighborhoods—all people in need must be helped, not written off as malcontent, demanding, lazy, ignorant bums and cheats.” ~ former and first serious female Democratic candidate for the Presidency of the US, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005)