Thursday, August 18, 2011

Not All Women Received The Right To Vote Today

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."   United States Constitution, 19th Amendment 
Today is the 91st anniversary of the August 1920 day that the 19th Amendment to the constitution for women's suffrage was ratified by a one vote 50-49 margin in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

With Tennessee becoming the 36th state to adopt it, the 19th Amendment became the law of the land and is rightfully celebrated as a human rights advance in the States. .

But I can't let this day pass by without reminding people that not all women got the right to vote today.  Despite the involvement of
Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman,  Ida B. Wells, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin and Frederick Douglass, B
lack women had to fight for inclusion in a suffrage movement in which white women were upset that the 1870 ratification of the 15th Amendment had given Black men (in theory) the right to vote before they received it.  

hite suffragettes, especially those from the South sought to "win women's suffrage through demonstrating their allegiance to white supremacy."
Translation: they threw Black women under the bus to get their suffrage rights.   That came to a head with an 1894 clash in Great Britain between Ida B. Wells and Frances E. Willard. .  
Even when on paper African American women earned the right to vote on this date, Jim Crow segregation, disenfranchisement and all the heinous bag of tricks and violence used to suppress the rights of African Americans to vote would ensure that the power of African American women voters wouldn't be felt until after the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Today the power of the African American women's vote has led to Black women getting elected to all levels of government including former Senator Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL) and a long list of distinguished former and current members of the House of Representatives.  Some of those Black women reps have provided major political leadership roles as well.

Rep.Shirley Chisholm in 1972 and Carol Moseley-Braun in 2004 made historic runs for president, and the votes of Black women are sought after by politicians seeking to build a winning electoral voting coalition    

And thanks to Black women voters, there's an African American POTUS and FLOTUS residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

So yes, today is a wonderful day to celebrate, but as with all things in America when it comes to African Americans and our long tortured history in this country, it's a bittersweet moment as well.

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