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From the beginning, from the days of slavery and the drive for abolition, women of both races were deeply involved. “When the true history of the antislavery cause shall be written, woman will occupy a large space in its pages; for the cause of the slave has been peculiarly woman’s cause” wrote Frederick Douglass in 1881(Olson, 2002). Undoubtedly, women like Ella Baker, Mary McLeod Bethune, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rosa Parks brought society to a better place and helped African Americans to get the respect they deserved.

Ella Baker

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Ella Baker has achieved many goals throughout her life time, has overcome numerous obstacles, played a major role in building and leading many organizations through the civil rights movement. Ella Baker was trying to bring democracy to organizations.

Baker had her influences on over thirty civil rights organizations.  She also played a major for in three of the biggest one such as the NAACP, SCLC, and SNNC. Baker role in building the NAACP in the 1940s, particularly in the South, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in the late 1950s and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s always seemed to be under appreciated because of her gender.

her leadership was of a different kind than that of many of her colleagues, particularly within the NAACP and the SCLC (Elliott, 1996).

Ella Baker spent her entire adult life trying to change racial discrimination and segregation.  Radical change for Ella Baker was about a relentless and expanded course of dialogue, debate, consensus, reflection, and struggle.  Ella Baker understood that laws, structures, and institutions had to change in order to correct inequality and oppression, but part of the process had to involve oppressed people into the notion of democracy and finding their own individual and collective power to determine their lives. She worked with the northern labour politics in the 1940’s, and later with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Although Ms. Baker worked with SCLC, she clashed with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because she did not believe in the one great leader model of social change. Mrs. Baker instead wanted to work to empower thousands of ordinary people to speak out. The male leaders of these organizations didn’t appreciate what Baker called, group-centered leadership.  For much of her career she functioned as an “outsider within” (Elliott, 1996).  Baker wanted to involve many in the process of change.  Ella Baker held an affinity for the most oppressed sectors of her society.  Ella wanted to democratize the organization by empowering local and regional leader by emphasizing grassroots struggles.  Mrs. Baker pushed for organization to look at the bottom of the class hierarchy for motivation and not the top.

Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune was an innovative leader because she took a story which was largely latent in the population, equal education rights for black children, and brought it to national prominence through the creation of the Bethune-Cookman college.  She was also a visionary leader because of the incredible success she was able to attain in advancing the cause of equal education.

            Bethune was such an effective leader because both she completely embodied her story and it became completely central to her life and persona.  Bethune was able to embark on her incredible quest because of the educational opportunities she was provided by missionary teachers and therefore dedicated her life to ensuring that every black child had the opportunity to advance and prove themselves through education.  In Leading Minds, Howard Gardner describes the many characteristics which comprise his cognitive model of leadership.  In this brief biographical excerpt, Bethune meets them all.

            One of the characteristics Gardner uses to quantify cognitive leadership is the acquisition of power and the use of this power to implement policy.  The segregated and patriarchical nature of the society Bethune lived in made it extremely difficult for her advance herself or her vision of equal opportunity education.  However, despite these challenges, she was able to rise to a position of national prominence as a director of the division of Negro affairs of the National Youth Administration and a President and trustee of the school she created from its creation to her own death.  This alone would not qualify as cognitive leadership, but because her rise to power was so closely linked with her ideology, she was able to empower the equal education movement on a national level.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Before Eleanor Roosevelt, the role of the first lady was not a political role; it was merely just a formal title of the president’s wife.  Eleanor Roosevelt paved the way for all presidents’ wives to come by being active in politics during and after her husband’s presidency.  Of course, she did not have instant success; she had many trials which helped her become an important and influential role model.  Eleanor Roosevelt’s dedication to her husband, her activeness in politics, and her volunteer work enabled her to change the role of the First Lady.

Eleanor Roosevelt felt strongly about the segregation of races, and she did what she could to stand up against it.  She had always been very active in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), but when she invited a black singer, Marian Anderson, to sing at a function, they wouldn’t let her perform in their auditorium.  Eleanor was so upset by this that she resigned from the Daughters of the American Revolution and refused to be associated with them (Beck, 2004).  She also went to a meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, with Mary McLeod Bethune, a famous black educator, and was upset to see that whites had to sit on one side and blacks on the other.  Eleanor stubbornly sat with the black group until she was asked to move by a police officer.  Instead of moving to sit with the white group, she just put her chair right in the middle (Morey, 1998, pp. 59-60).  “She also got involved with associations like the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and would even try to pass anti-lynching bills for them.  They never did pass though.” (Cook, 1992, p. 177)

Rosa Parks
One of the most infulential and inspirational women of all time was Rosa Parks. By one action she helped change the lives of a majority of African Americans and, more importantly, society as a whole. Rosa Parks sparked the attention of America when she refused to settle for the black (lower class)standards. Not only did she help change the lives for many African Americans but she helped to establish equality for all men and women in the United States. By one brave women our world will be forever thankful.

            Rosa Parks was raised in her Grandparents hosue in pine Level, Montgomery County, in Alabama. Her Mother’s name was Leona Edwards and her father James McCauley was a carpenter. On February 4, 1913 Rosa was born, a year after her parents were married. At around the age of two her father took off North looking for a better life. As a child Rosa and her brother grew up with segregation and such societies as the Ku Klux Klan. Her grandfather would often sleep with a rifle by his side due to the unsafe environment. By the time Rosa Parks went to school she began to feel unhappy about the society she was living in. She soon noticed the segregation of their society when she saw the empty and little school for blacks compared to the

 glamorous and big school the whites had. At that point on in Rosa’s life she decided she was going to be a person with dignity and self-respect. She promised herself she would never set her dreams lower than anyone else in the world simply because she was black. She wanted a change and was determined to make it happen. At age nineteen Rosa married a man named Raymond Park, who died of cancer in 1977 after a close fifty years of marraige. When Raymond was living he had always influenced her to become more active in civil rights among blacks. Her hopes for a better future were just begining (Grandtimes .com).

            By 1945 Rosa was a leader in the Montgomery Voters League and the secretary of the NAtionals Association for the Advacement of Colored People(NAACP). One evening in early December 1955 Rosa was sitting in the front seat of the colored section of the bus on her way home. It was like almost every day all the blacks would sit in the white section of the bus and as soon as the whites filled in the blacks would routinely move to the back. In an instance Rosa found her chance of freedom. Somehow she had changed the laws. She was tired of being pushed around. She knew in her heart she was a regular person just like everyone else and she wanted everyone else to know it too. The whites quickly pilled on the bus and all the blacks pilled in the back. Ms. Parks on the other hand didn’t move. Quickly the driver threatened to arrest her. As the driver began to get angry Rosa calmly with all the confidence in the world just sat. Rosa Parks got arrested that day for every black in the nation. She wanted to prove to all people that she would be treated as anyone else in the community.

            Little did Rosa know that a simple act of courage would change the course of American history. That day she was arrested for violating Montgomery’s transportation laws and took her to jail. She was soon released on a one-hundred dollar bail. A trial was scheduled for December 5, 1955. Her arrest brought a protest of seven thousand blacks in her community. Her community was small but every African American member of her town was sure to be protesting for her release that day. This protest rapidly started the creation of the Montgomery Improvement Association. The most involved and determined person besides Parks in this movement was Martain Luther King Jr. would call for a one-day bus boycott which ended up extending after Rosa was found guilty. Rosa was fined ten dollars. Rosa once again refused to pay any money and appealed her case. Rosa Parks and her husband both lost their jobs and were harassed and ridiculed for what happened on the bus. Most whites would say she made a fool out of herself and she embarrassed the black commmunity. Finally in 1956, the United States District Court system delcared that the segregated buses were unconstitutional and unethical. The supreme Court upheld this ruling and ordered that Montgomery buses must be integrated. African Americans boycotted for 381 days; during this boycott blacks wold ride black-owned cabs, car pool , or they walked to work (Grandtimes .com). This nonviolent protest helped end the segregation on buses. Rosa Parks changed the racism and segresation in her town in the time span of a year. Parks was the lighter to the end of segregation. She lit the spark and a while new nation was coming of it.

            Today, Rosa Parks tried to use her negative memories of segregation and racism to continue her goal towards complete justice, freedom, and equality. She believes that the children are future of the world and hope that they will fulfill the dreams of society in the future. Rosa Parks was a  true role model to our nation and granted the dreams and wishes of many African Americans. Her words and actions pertaining to the struggle for desegregation continue to ring like church bells today. This bell rings throughout the world for all to hear, and millions of people follow the beat.

All in all, each one of these women: Ella Baker, Mary McLeod Bethune, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rosa Parks saw an opportunity to make a difference, and not only did they eventually made a difference but became an example of courage, dignity , and

 determination to the future generations. Life around the time when these courageuswomen lived was very different from today. If you were black most people in society considered you an outcast. Often if old movies are watched today you may see many African Americans on the streets or serving white’s in their homes. Blacks were viewed as the slaves of the world. For many years they were beaten ,starved, and treated like animals. It took many years and many brave people both black and white to change these actions. People like Ella Baker, Mary McLeod Bethune, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rosa Parks brought society to a better place and helped African Americans to get the respect they deserved. The segregation against blacks started very early in the world. People would go to Africa and throw many of the African Americans out fo their homes leaving their families and onto ships. On these ships they would pile thousands of blacks.

They would be squisahed together like thousands of sardines ina can. They had no knowledge of what was going on or where they were going. It was outright not fair and morally wrong. Onthese ships the living conditions were very harmful to their lives. They received barley any food and the floor to sleep on at nights. Of the few that would survive the long journey once they arrived in Europe they would be auctioned off the Americans or people to do what they desire with them. From that day on African Americans were viewed as the whites’ toys and games. Ella Baker, Mary McLeod Bethune, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rosa Parks had the courage to finally begin to put a stop to this and they will be well resprected for all their life.

References

Beck, Susan Abrams. (2004). Eleanor Roosevelt: The Path to Equality. White House Studies, 4.

This journal article describes Eleanor Roosevelt playing a major role in American politics for a half century. Beck addresses Eleanors pursuing liberal goals, being a woman who took her place in a man’s world, and showing everybody around how to make a difference. The article also discusses the issue of difference between men and women, their relations and what steps Eleanor Rossevelt took to reach political and economic equality.

Cook, Blanche Wiesen. (1992). Eleanor Roosevelt 1884 1993. Vol. 1. New York: Penguin Books Ltd.

In her book Cook shows how young women growing up in the 1930s’ took inspiration from Eleanor Roosevelt. Besides showing how influential and inspiring Eleanor was for many men and women, Cook describes Eleanors’ struggles, necessity to fight simultaneously galvanizing people around.

Elliott, Aprele. (May, 1996). Ella Baker: Free Agent in the Civil Rights Movement. Journal of Black Studies 26 (5), 593-603.

Elliot briefly introduces Ella Bakers’ life and career, touching on the essentials of Ella’s major work.  The article also addresses Baker’s impact on the civil rights movement as a woman in a time when men determined everything, touching upon her teaching style, political philosophy and leadership style.  In a word, Elliiot provides a great overview of Baker’s life and work, portraying her as a female activist and inspirational leader for her followers.

Gardner, Howard. (1996). Leading Minds: An Anatomy Of Leadership. HarperCollins Publishers.

Olson, Lynne. (2002). Freedom’s Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830 to 1970. Scribner.

Olson provides rare information about African Americna women that have fought for equality throughout the entire American history. Olson provides unique facts that are usually excluded from the historical literature describing civil right movement. This book discusses women living during civil rights movement that had a great influence on American history. The majority of them are mentioned in another historical books, but Olson not only mentiones them, he explores their struggles, their fights for equality, relationships between black and white women and men, their goals and achievements.

Morey, Eileen. (1998). The Importance of Eleanor Roosevelt. San Diego: Lucent Books, Inc.

Moreys’ book includes a lot of information about Eleanor Roosevelts’ personal life, thracking her way of becoming one of the 20th century’s most influential women. Although the author deeply analyzes Eleanors’ attitudes and actions, and sometimes even provides some of the contemporary criticisms of Roosevelts’ views and behavior, she undoubtedly approves her steps and admires Roosevelt. Overall, Morey describes Eleanor Roosevelt as a role model for many young women as well as for First Ladies.

Ransby, Barbara. (2006). Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement. The University of North Carolina Press.

Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement is one of those rare books that in details describes a biography of a very important but not very famous person that had a great impact on the American civil rights movement. Dr. Ransby provides an overview of imressive political career of Ella Baker that started in depression era and developed in 1950s and 1960s’during the civil rights movement. Ransby highlites Baker’s organizational, intellectual, and teaching skills, picturing Ella as a strong political figure that acted radically and thought democratically. While reading the book, you can see that Ella Baker was absolutely committed to equalizing blacks and whites, helping poor and overall to the African American fight for justice.

Rosa Parks: The Woman Who Changed a Nation.Grandtimes .com. Retrieved October 13, 2006 from http://www.grandtimes.com/rosa.html

Spangenburg, Ray, and Diane K. Moser. (1997). Eleanor Roosevelt A Passion to Improve. New York: Facts on File.

Deeply researched and very touching biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. Spangenburg focuses on Eleanors’ problematic childhood describing her separation from parents, the death of her mother, despotic grandmother, etc. Eleanor is presented by the author as a role moder for the people that surrounded her and as a legend to the future generations whose light still shines through.

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