Janet Dewart Bell has identified three modes of Black women’s leadership during the Civil Rights Movement. These modes are transformational, servant, and traditional. A transformational leader inspires others to reach their goals by encouraging and supporting them. In addition, this style is more trustworthy and inspiring, leading to more participation and commitment. Lastly, a servant leader embraces the work without recognition but knows when to use the recognition strategy.
Adella Hunt Logan was born in Sparta, Georgia, in 1863. She was a National Association of Colored Women Club member and led many discussions on suffrage issues. She also compiled a library for reading materials on the subject. In 1883, she became the second female faculty member at Tuskegee Institute and the school’s first librarian. In 1904, she married Warren Logan, a man who influenced her greatly.
After the death of her husband, Hunt Logan suffered from depression. She published several articles on the topic and lectured across the country. Eventually, she lost hope and committed suicide by jumping from the fifth floor of her Tuskegee campus building. Hundreds of onlookers watched her suicide. Despite her demise, her legacy lives on in her daughter Adele Logan Alexander’s memoir, What Is a Woman?
Although she lived in Alabama, she often traveled to Georgia and lobbied for social reform with other black women activists. Her most famous speech, “Prenatal and Hereditary Influences,” was given at Atlanta University. She also earned an honorary master’s degree from the school. At that time, no African American school had an accredited graduate program.
During the early Progressive Era, women began to launch campaigns for social and political reforms. A large number of these campaigns centered on the right to vote. However, black women were excluded from most women’s suffrage organizations, which white suffragists led. However, Hunt Logan overcame this by passing herself off as white. She attended the NAWSA convention in Atlanta in 1895.
Ridley was a leader in the Black woman’s club movement. She convened the first conference of the National Federation of Afro-American Women in 1895, and hundreds of Black women responded to her call. She also co-authored the first African American newspaper, Woman’s Era.
Hunt Logan had the support of Du Bois and a close relationship with him, but they had different perspectives. Du Bois was Washington’s philosophical archenemy. Washington had refused to request Du Bois’ contribution to an issue of Crisis that focused on woman’s suffrage. During this time, the Alabama legislature refused to allow a referendum for women. Washington died shortly afterward.
Nannie Helen Burroughs
Nannie Helen Burroughs’ leadership in civil rights is tied to her work as a writer. She traveled widely, published extensively, and spoke at meetings to advocate for black freedom and equality. Her books, which drew a large audience, also helped advance the cause of black women’s labor rights.
Burroughs believed in the power of women’s labor organizing and that organizing Black women could make a difference in domestic workers’ conditions. Her manifesto outlined nine goals for domestic workers and described the steps organizers would take to achieve them. The goals included collecting dues, documenting grievances, training employees, and advocating for labor rights legislation. Burroughs also helped black women secure safe housing and started a uniform co-operative run by Black women. Among Burroughs’ accomplishments, she also started a local office and held community events.
Burroughs’ works document the intellectual legacy of black women. Her style is a synthesis of high learning and practical experience. Her ideas are grounded in various topics, and her poetry is fluid and lyrical. She was deeply invested in growing her mind. The archive she left behind documents a woman who moved fluidly between gospel and intellectual thought.
Nannie Helen Burroughs’ work in the civil rights movement was closely tied to what the bibliography lists as her main accomplishment. She created a school, the National Training School for Women and Girls, in 1909. This was the first all-black school outside of the Deep South, and her goal was to make Black women more employable. It was also the first school to offer women a nonsectarian education.
As a womanist, Burroughs understood the importance of domestic workers for the progress of the Black race. As a granddaughter of a domestic worker, she advocated for domestic workers to be professionalized and have a sense of pride in their work. Her womanist principles also informed her writing and speeches. She spoke of honor and dignity in domestic service and advocated for fairness for African American women.
Burroughs’ feminist rhetoric and feminist activism led to her organization’s first national black women’s labor union. The union eventually had five to ten thousand members, and Burroughs developed womanist labor rhetoric grounded in working-class Black women’s equality.
Burroughs’ leadership in the civil rights cause was tied to how to improve black women’s lives. As a descendant of enslaved Africans, she was aware of the low status of black women. She sought to change this by providing education in domestic science, placing them in stable employment, and promoting a womanist labor platform.
Carrie Langston’s leadership in the Civil Rights Movement is rooted in the suffragist movement. She led the fight for Black women’s suffrage and opened the door for Black women to vote. Langston’s campaign was similar to other Black suffragists’ plans to enfranchise Black women.
The SNCC enlisted many young African American women to join their ranks. This was an essential part of the Civil Rights Movement. These young women were critical leaders in the movement. But, they were not given much credit. Their participation and leadership were often overlooked.
The author of Crossing Border Street: A Civil Rights Memoir also offers a personal account of their time with the SNCC. Another book by a Movement veteran, Vincent Harding, explores the impact of the civil rights movement on the United States as a whole. Another book that provides insight into the Selma voting rights struggle is The House by the Side of the Road by D’Army Bailey.
Aside from these books, several other authors have written books focusing on Langston’s role in the Civil Rights Movement. Doris Derby, a long-time SNCC leader, wrote an autobiography and a book about her experiences. Others include James H. Laue and Pete Daniel.
Carrie Langston’s leadership in the Civil Rights Movement was closely tied to what bibliography. She is the only white woman honored at the Montgomery Civil Rights Memorial. SNCC’s history is linked to Carrie Langston’s. A biography about SNCC and other key figures in the civil rights movement is available from the University Press of Florida.