The Invisible Women of the Civil Rights Movement
Tens of thousands of women participated in the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963. But none of the female civil rights leaders marched in the procession with Dr. King, nor were any of them invited to speak to the enormous crowd.
Instead, these women were asked to march on an adjacent street with the wives of the male leaders and to stay in the background.
The small role allowed female civil rights leaders in the activities of that day was the exact opposite of the central role these women played in planning the strategies, tactics and actions of the movement — including the march itself! In fact, many of the most iconic campaigns of the civil rights movement were coordinated by women, including nonviolent sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, forced integration of Central High School by the Little Rock Nine, and the voter registration drives of 1964’s Freedom Summer.