THE FIRST COMPREHENSIVE HISTORY OF THE VITAL ROLE
WOMEN -- BOTH BLACK AND WHITE -- PLAYED
IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
In this groundbreaking and absorbing book, credit finally goes where credit is due -- to the bold women who were crucial to the success of the civil rights movement. From the Montgomery bus boycott to the lunch counter sit-ins to the Freedom Rides, Lynne Olson skillfully tells the long-overlooked story of the extraordinary women who were among the most fearless, resourceful, and tenacious leaders of the civil rights movement.
Freedom's Daughters includes portraits of more than sixty women -- many until now forgotten and some never before written about -- from the key figures (Ida B. Wells, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ella Baker, and Septima Clark, among others) to some of the smaller players who represent the hundreds of women who each came forth to do her own small part and who together ultimately formed the mass movements that made the difference. Freedom's Daughters puts a human face on the civil rights struggle -- and shows that that face was often female.
Although men like Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael grabbed the headlines, women provided not just the backbone but frequently the leadership of the civil rights movement, this punchy popular history reminds us. And not just during the 1950s and '60s: Ida Mae Wells spearheaded an international anti-lynching campaign in 1892, Mary White Ovington helped launch the NAACP in 1909, and Pauli Murray led the first sit-in in 1944. The civil rights and feminist movements have been intertwined since the 19th century, notes Lynne Olson, who doesn't flinch from describing the ways in which sex has been used as a weapon to define and divide black and white women. Olson, coauthor of The Murrow Boys, again displays a marvelous knack for knitting sharp individual portraits into a cohesive group biography within a lively, accessible narrative. She makes it clear that women like Rosa Parks, Diane Nash, and Ida Mae Holland were not mere foot soldiers for male generals. Parks's record of civil rights work dated to the 1940s, long before she sparked the Montgomery bus boycott. The 22-year-old Nash revitalized the Freedom Rides after male colleagues nearly abandoned them in the wake of white violence. Holland transformed herself from an 18-year-old prostitute into a determined activist inspired by the older women she called "mamas" who could be seen on the front lines of every march, singing and testifying. Ella Baker, Jo Ann Robinson, Septima Clark, and Fannie Lou Hamer are among the other neglected figures who finally get their due in Olson's moving tribute. --Wendy Smith