by Bitch Media editor-in-chief Evette Dionne
For African American women, the fight for the right to vote was only one battle. Susan B. Anthony. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Alice Paul. The Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls. The 1913 Women’s March in D.C. When the epic story of the suffrage movement in the United States is told, the most familiar leaders, speakers at meetings, and participants in marches that are written about most often are generally white.
But that’s not the real story.
Women of color, especially African American women, were fighting for their right to vote and to be treated as full, equal citizens of the United States. Their battlefront wasn’t just about gender. African American women had to deal with white abolitionist-suffragists who drew the line at sharing power with their black sisters. They had to overcome deep, exclusionary racial prejudices that were rife in the American suffrage movement. And they had to maintain their dignity and safety in a society that tried to keep them in its bottom ranks.
Lifting as We Climb is the empowering story of African American women who refused to accept all this. Women in black church groups, black female sororities, black women’s improvement societies and social clubs. Women who formed their own black suffrage associations when white-dominated national suffrage groups rejected them. Women like Mary Church Terrell, a founder of the National Association of Colored Women and of the NAACP; or educator-activist Anna Julia Cooper who championed women getting the vote and a college education; or the crusading journalist Ida B. Wells, a leader in both the suffrage and anti-lynching movements.
Author Evette Dionne, a feminist culture writer and the editor-in-chief of Bitch Media, has uncovered an extraordinary and underrepresented history of black women. In her powerful book, she draws an important historical line from abolition to suffrage to civil rights to contemporary young activists–filling in the blanks of the American suffrage story.
“Dionne provides a detailed and comprehensive look at the overlooked roles African American women played in the efforts to end slavery and then to secure the right to vote for women.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review