Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz, Harriet Tubman.
Do those name ring a bell? Most likely you’ve heard of them throughout your lifetime learning history. What about Sojourner Truth, Mary Stagecoach Fields? Probably have heard very little, if anything, about those two powerful women of the abolitionist movement. Black history extends over centuries of American history. I think it would be safe to say that Black history IS American history. During Black History Month, we learn about the many greats who dedicated, and many whom have sacrificed, their lives for Civil Rights.
I recently watched a movie on LMN entitled “Betty and Coretta” starring Mary J. Blige as Betty Shabazz, the wife of Malcolm X and Angela Basset as Coretta Scott King. The movie showcased their lives post-assassination of their husbands and the friendship they formed together as they marched forward in their husbands’ names continuing their legacy. Now, the historical accuracy of this movie is debatable. However, it got me thinking that we’ve really forgotten about the brave women in the history of the Civil Rights Movement.
Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Medger Evers are the most discussed during Black History month. There’s a lot we can learn from these men, from their great triumphs and weaknesses that they overcame. However, we cannot forget the great women who also dedicated their lives to the civil rights movement. This includes the wives of the many leaders such as Martin, Malcolm, and Medger. We can’t forget the wives who stood behind their husbands every step of the way. And most certainly we cannot forget the pain the wives of the aforementioned individuals had to endure from losing their husbands to assassination. There’s an old saying that says in effect, behind every great man is an even greater woman. We can’t forget about the sacrifices of the wives of the Civil Rights Leaders and their dedication to their husbands through their feats and challenges.
Betty Shabazz, the wife of Malcolm X, was sitting in the front row watching her husband speak at the Audobon Ballroom where he was shot. Right in front of her eyes. Her children lived on with that memory of their mother standing over their father’s body screaming in agony. That is a pain we cannot even begin to understand. But, Betty Shabazz marched on in her husband’s name, taking a stand for civil rights speaking at colleges and universities and teaching at Medgar Evers College, and raising her children on her own, until she tragically died in an apartment fire in 1997. Coretta Scott King, the wife of Martin Luther King, so bravely marched in the very city her husband was shot and killed.
The bravery of these women is something that should always be remembered and honored. We of course cannot forget, the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks. Her simple, yet brave, act sparked the likes of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement of the 50′s and 60′s. It was the catalyst that started a movement that created history for our nation. Rosa Parks didn’t march, she didn’t give a grandiose speech, she simply refused to move. She refused to give up her basic human dignity by moving to the back of the bus for a white man, and was arrested because of it. Just a simple act created history. It changed the course of American history. That should inspire anyone to go out there and make a difference. Rosa Parks has shown us that making a difference can be something as small as sitting in the way of injustice.
So this Black History Month, I propose a challenge to all who read this article. Do some research on the many brave black women of the Civil Rights or Abolitionist movements in American history. Whether it be the wives of the many well-known civil rights leaders like Coretta Scott King or Betty Shabazz. Or if it be other individuals like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman or Mary Stagecoach Fields. There are numerous women throughout Black History who’s unsurpassed bravery can inspire anyone who reads up on them. Please, make a challenge to yourself, and let’s not forget the strong women of Black History.