It’s been 100 years since women organized and fought for the right to vote.
After the 19th Amendment was ratified, Black women in the South continued to face roadblocks preventing them from casting ballots. But Andrea Blackman, director of special collections at the Nashville Public Library, says this didn’t stop Black women from mobilizing.
The Nashville Public Library will host public discussions after its event on Aug. 18 to honor the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Blackman hopes it will challenge people to re-evaluate how we make space for marginalized voices today and not just memorialize history.
WPLN’s Ambriehl Crutchfield interviews Blackman to learn how this history parallels to Black women fighting for power today. Black women are the most reliable voting bloc for the Democratic Party, yet it wasn’t until this week that they broke the glass ceiling of being on the presidential ticket. Black women wanted to define their identity for themselves, wanted the power they had worked for and for issues to be discussed with intersectionality in mind.
You can listen to the interview above or read excerpts below.
Andrea Blackman on the erasure of Black women’s voices:
They were speaking in a lot of these places. But what happened was when it was time to record and document their presence, many of the minutes, the notes, they left out their speeches. And so, you have these African American women who pretty much have been removed from a traditional narrative of what we now look at as the suffrage movement or the women’s voting rights movement.
Blackman says Black women were fighting for more than the 19th Amendment. Lynching, Jim Crow and empowerment of the Black community were top of mind:
So we have these Black women who were fighting in their communities. They were fighting mostly to do this again to [advance] legislation for lynching. They were fighting for visibility in newspapers. They were fighting for equitable secondary schools. They were fighting for the right to go to college. They were fighting just to have a platform to promote their own ideas and their own agenda.
Pew Research shows Black women didn’t support President Donald Trump in 2016, while white women were second only to white men. That divide goes back to the earliest days of the women’s movement:
Before the Civil War, it became clear that Black women and white women had these different views on why the vote would be essential. You know, white women were seeking the vote as a symbol of parity. You know, they were aligning themselves with their husbands, their fathers and their brothers and Black women, who most of them who lived in the South at this time were seeking the ballot for themselves. They were trying to empower Black communities that had been torn apart by racial and terror after emancipation.
Before Kamala Harris became Joe Biden’s running mate, some media outlets tried to define her identity as Black or Asian. Blackman says Black women have been finding solutions for issues with intersectionality in mind, long before it was a word:
So these Black woman wanted policies to be changed … not just based on gender. They wanted gender and race to be inclusive. And issues of Black women had to be addressed, whether that was dealing with child care, whether that was health care, whatever it was. And many of them were fighting for their voices because for such a long time you have these images who were left out, because they seem to have been their voices were too strong. And so many of them were fighting for what it meant for them to define their own womanhood.
Clarification: This article has been modified to clarify attribution in the third question and that the model of the Woman Suffrage Monument depicts Black and white marchers.