The Civil Rights Movement was a pivotal battle against discrimination and civil rights against African Americans. One of the main issues that women were fighting for as a part of the Civil Rights Movement was the right to vote. During this time, women were known as bridge leaders, those who had unofficial positions, yet they served vital functions in organizing and inspiring their local communities (Dubois, 2015). Even as the movement grew, women were still very much a part of the sit-ins, boycotts, demonstrations, and marches (Dubois, 2015). Some of the bridge leaders were known for organizing some key demonstrations that were iconic for the Civil Rights Movement. Ella Baker established the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) which had emerged from the 1960 sit-in at the Woolworth counter in Greensboro, North Carolina (Dubois, 2015).
Just as Baker and the SNCC had successfully conducted the sit-in, the success of their peaceful efforts quickly spread to other college towns and gain national attention. Where there may have been success in one area, failure can come in another. In an effort to register African Americans in the South, local African Americans in that area were reluctant to risk their livelihood or personal safety to register (Dubois, 2015). The Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) decided to plan Freedom Summer to impart energy into voter registration (Dubois, 2015). Although the intent of Freedom Summer was well-intended, lives were lost, the end result made a bold impression and challenged the all-white Mississippi Democratic Party (Dubois, 2015).
Getting a phone call in the middle of the night is never something anyone would ever want to receive. On this evening, my father called and said that something had happened to my mother and that the ambulance was working on her. My husband and I rushed out of bed and headed over to their house. Seeing my mother on the floor receiving chest compressions was something that I had not expected to see. I knew that in that moment, I had to be strong for my father. This was his wife of 51 years and I knew his world was about to change.
Not knowing the extent of my mom’s condition, my husband drove us to the hospital. On the way, I knew I had to be strong for my father. My older brother and sister were in route and would be emotional, but being the baby of the family and close to my father, I knew he would lean on me for support. Up until my mother’s passing, I would talk to my dad on a daily basis and try my best to keep him encouraged. I knew that my mother was gone, but I knew that she would not physically leave him until she knew he was ready. If she had left any sooner, I’m afraid that he would have followed.
Nothing can prepare you for death, but in that moment, you have to decide how you plan to respond. For the sake of my father, I put aside my personal hurt and pain and hid it from him. I was willing to be strong for him to help him get through this. Even looking back on it now, I don’t think that I have fully grieved my mother’s death, but I helped my father get through his hurt and that means more to me than my own feelings.
Dubois, C. & Dumenil, L., (2016). Through Women’s Eyes: An American History with Documents, 4th Edition. [Kaplan].