[Marxism] How the Suffrage Movement Betrayed Black Women
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Sun Jul 29 00:02:34 MDT 2018
The suffragist heroes Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthonyseized
control of the feminist narrative of the 19th century. Their influential
history of the movement still governs popular understanding of the struggle
for women’s rights and will no doubt serve as a touchstone for
commemorations that will unfold across the United States around
the centennial of the 19th Amendment in 2020.
That narrative, in the six-volume “History of Women’s Suffrage,” betrays
more than a hint of vanity when it credits the Stanton-Anthony cohort with
starting a movement that actually had diverse origins and many mothers. Its
worst offenses may be that it rendered nearly invisible the black women who
labored in the suffragist vineyard and that it looked away from the racism
that tightened its grip on the fight for the women’s vote in the years
after the Civil War.
Historians who are not inclined to hero worship — including Elsa Barkley
Brown <http://wmst.umd.edu/people/core-faculty/elsa-barkley-brown>, Lori
<http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=21286> — have
recently provided an unsparing portrait of this once-neglected period.
Stripped of her halo, Stanton, the campaign’s principal philosopher, is
exposed as a classic liberal racist
embraced fairness in the abstract while publicly enunciating bigoted views
of African-American men, whom she characterized as “Sambos” and incipient
rapists in the period just after the war. The suffrage struggle itself took
on a similar flavor, acquiescing to white supremacy — and selling out the
interests of African-American women — when it became politically expedient
to do so. This betrayal of trust opened a rift between black and white
feminists that persists to this day.
This toxic legacy looms especially large as cities, including New York
prepare monuments and educational programs to celebrate the centennial of
the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, which barred the states from denying
voting rights based on gender. Black feminists in particular are eager to
see if these remembrances own up to the real history of the fight for the
vote — and whether black suffragists appear in them.
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