tv African American Womens Activism Suffrage CSPAN April 26, 2021 8:28pm-9:29pm EDT
won the vote and insisted on equality for all she talks about the various ways african-american women became involved in women's suffrage and other political movements in the first half of the twentieth century. she focuses on how they advocated for their communities in the face of voting restrictions by white state governments. the united states capitol historical society the kluge center and the woman's suffrage centennial commission hosted this event and provided the video. dr. martha jones was the very first scholar that we recruited for the symposium back in the day when you could see on another i went over to baltimore and we had coffee and got to know each other a little bit and she agreed that she would come and keynote our our conference on and so we are so honored dr. jones is a historian a writer and a commentator who's work has focused on how black americans have shaped the history of
american democracy her most recent book which just came out is called vanguard. how black women overcame barriers won the vote and insisted on equality for all this book is fascinating you have to you have to get it it starts with dr. jones's grandmother susie jones and i must admit i haven't finished the book. but it has amazing stories of of women who really have made a difference and we look forward dr. jones to hearing your story. so let me just tell you a little bit about dr. jones. she was born in central harlem and was originally trained as an attorney and was working on social justice issues after being trained at in new york. and so at the q&a law school she
became a public interest lawyer and spent nearly 10 years representing homeless people people with mental illness women living with aids and in 1994. she was awarded a charles refson fellowship on the future of the city of new york at columbia university based on her lawyering work. and there her career took an interesting term as she was drawn to the research and writing of eric fonner. and saw that his career linked history and scholarship and social justice and she discovered what she called her inner archive rat, which you will have to explain to us what that really is. learn the politics of history and stated columbia to earn a phd in history. and from there spent the next 16 years teaching history law and african-american studies at the university of michigan.
and in 197 in 2017, she came to baltimore as the black alumni presidential professor and at johns hopkins university. there since then she has earned too many awards to mention. so let me just say she is an acclaimed scholar and in 2019 her alma mater the cuny school of law awarded her a doctor of law on an honorary basis and each spring. i she she and her husband who is french go back and forth across the atlantic, although they haven't been able to do that this year, but she is definitely a citizen of the world. and so we are very honored to have dr. martha jones. share with us. what really is the impact of black women? who now have the right to vote
and will fight every day to make sure that every person has a right to vote on the politics of this democracy. thank you to you jane and to the us capitol historical society. i'm extremely honored to have been a part of what have been an extraordinary series of conversations insights, and i look forward to the work that we'll all do together out of this symposium experience. so, so thank you so much. my theme is indeed the 19th amendment and how this year we are. i think striving to both mark the centennial and move from if you will miss to history the story of the amendment is one facet of our national reckoning with the past for me, especially a reckoning with the role that
racism has played in shaping the nation and my hope is that through the opportunity that we've had in. anniversary year to better understand what happened in 1920. we might fashion new ways forward in our own moment. now some people may know that if you mentioned to me that we're celebrating the centennial of the 19th amendment. i might cringe a little bit don't get me wrong as jane campbell said i've just finished a book about the history of black women and the vote and i'm as interested in anyone in this anniversary year and it's significant for our nation's past and present and still i can't quite bring a spirit of celebration to the occasion. i worry that it just might get in the way of the story that i have to share with you today. when we appreciate that the open secret about the 19th amendment
in 1920 the open secret. was that black women would continue in many parts of the country to be disenfranchised that fact of the 19th amendment alone means that it fits awkwardly with events that feature light shows and period costumes and marching bands though. i have enjoyed some of those i confess. in 1920 members of congress who promulgated the 19th amendment state lawmakers who ratified it and suffragists themselves all understood that nothing in its terms prohibited states from strategically using poll taxes literacy tests and understanding clauses to keep black women from registering to vote. nothing in the new amendment promised to curb whatever new was already rampant intimidation violence that threatened black women now who came out to polling places voting rights and oppression when hand in hand in 1920 now fortunately, i'm
historian and that means i nothing i my job requires me to plan commemorative festivities instead my work is to cut through half truths and myths about the past and equip us with critical tools that i think we need to use the past to think about the future of our democracy 25 years ago historian michelle rough cleo looked back on the celebrations that marked 500 years since 1492 the year in which christopher columbus was once upon a time at least columbus was said to have discovered the americas and cleo warned historians away from such occasions last we be drawn into promoting sanitized partial truths and even myths that the occasion demanded the difficult history of european contact in conquest with the indigenous people of the americas including that of columbus was muted and even omitted together in efforts
to cast the anniversary in 1992 as a celebration such framings may have filled the coffers of tourist venues and souvenir sellers, but they did too little to promote critical understanding of how colonialism devastated the people and the lands of the hemisphere. so when i'm asked why i mostly stay home from the celebrations. i note that this centennial of the 19th amendment marks a milestone in the american story of voting rights. i add that remembering that era of voter suppression may indeed. help us to see more clearly how ballots are being withheld from americans in our own time. it may even encourage us to recommit to the ongoing work of ensuring the voting rights of all americans and i'm eager to contribute to stories of black women to our collective understanding of the 19th amendment, but as a nation, we're not quite ready yet for that grand celebration the promise of voting rights for all still remains on the horizon. so what happened in august 19 20
when the 19th amendment became part of the constitution. i'm going to focus today on two myths that i think still pervade interpretations of that scene. and the first is that when the amendment became law all american women won the vote. you probably have even heard it said that in 1920 women were now guaranteed right to vote. that's one myth the second. is that on the contrary and it is a myth that almost runs contrary to the first there is the myth that no black american women gain the vote in 1920 that racism kept black american women from the polls and i think what we'll do today is sort of explore those and look at the ways in which history sheds inevitably a much more nuanced light on those two myths so in this anniversary year, i want to start by looking at august of in 20 when the us secretary of
state certified that the 19th amendment of the constitution had indeed been ratified by the required 36 states. what did the amendment say the right of citizens of the united states to vote shall not be denied or approached by abridged by the united states or by any state on account of sex? so what precisely did that mean for american women? now laws that reserve the ballot from men violated the constitution no longer could sex be a barrier to voter eligibility and still the 19th amendment did not promise any american woman to vote laws state laws. still kept women from the polls based upon age citizenship residency mental competence american women who married non-us citizens in 1920 still face. naturalization and now the loss
of their voting rights the women who showed up to register in the fall of 1920 confronted many hurdles, even if sex was not one of them. of course, there was one additional barrier to women's votes that persisted even after a federal amendment and that was racism. it was true that the 15th amendment in 1870 50 years before had expressly forbid states from denying the vote because of race but by 1920 lawmakers in the south and in some parts of the west it said in place hurdles that while silent on their face about race had the net effect of disenfranchising black americans poll tax. it's literacy test grandfather clauses had effectively kept many black men from casting their balance since the 1890s unchecking intimidation and the threat of lynching sealed the deal local voting officials had effectively constructed a color line ever expressly invoking rice.
did american win the vote in 1920? we have to say not all women african-american women in too. many states became merely if you will the equals to their husbands and their fathers state laws disenfranchise them in an enron around the spirits of the 15th and 19th amendments registration numbers reflected the effects of these laws and in the fall of 1920 black women presented themselves to officials, but many found that the books were closed what was going on one example from kent county delaware reports were that black women turned out in unusually large numbers in the judgment of the journalist, but officials refuse them because they fail to comply with the constitutional tests what was going on in delaware and many places black women were being presented with text of the us constitution.
being asked not only required not only to read that portion of a portion of the constitution, but then to interpret that portion of the constitution when i teach this to my students i challenge them to on their feet and under the scrutiny of me standing in for the reluctant official to explain for example, the electoral college it isn't easy to do and many black women. do not succeed in overcoming these kinds of hurdles in 1920. and still black women were voting the first waves of black women and voters were unleashed in individual states that had made women's suffrage the law in california starting in 1911 in illinois in 1913 in new york in 1917. black women were already
experienced voters by 1920 and even more managed to register in cast ballots in the fall of that year in the wake of the 19th amendment. how did they do that one example from saint louis, missouri where black women came together under the auspices of the phyllis wheatley branch of the ywca name for the 18th century poet there. they ran a suffrage school and taught one another how to pay poll taxes how to pass literacy tests how to grapple with begrudging officials. they even managed to attract men. the suffrage school who thought that perhaps 1920 represented a moment in which they might reclaim the voting rights that they had lost decades before black women turned out in saint louis and the papers reported that eerily every woman in the city registered that season
black women came to represent somewhere between in 10 10 and 20 percent of new voters and the stakes were high in saint louis a city where local officials were using referenda to impose housing segregation for the first time by law in the city of saint louis black women are turning out not only to realize their own personal ambitions not only to further women's interests but to contribute to the struggle against jim crow, which now had to instead of consequence at the ballot box in a city like st. louis the other example i'll offer this afternoon comes from daytona, florida and there suffragists club leader and educator mary cloud bethune had
run a very effective voter registration effort in 1919 and 1920 throughout the state of florida to get black women registered when the 19th amendment took effect. now bethune who ran a school in daytona for african-american girls learned that the wave of violence and intimidation that had overtaken the state of florida by fall of 2020 was going to visit her very close to home the ku klux klan announced that it would gather on election even 1920 in daytona indeed. they appeared on last on horseback in full regalia. they burned across and then marched to the grounds of bethune's girls school. today's bethune cookman university in an effort to
intimidate bethune her faculty and the african-american women in daytona who had been part of the voter drive there. the next day black women did turn out and we learned something about the extent of their organization and their tactics because they turn out together in large numbers at the polls. this is understood to be a tactic that will if not repel discourage the sort of violence that clan members had threatened the night before so bethune and her patriots. have a kind of success in the fall of 1920, but the violence in florida persists it persists to such a degree that the clan again will visit mrs. mrs. mrs. bethune's school on election eve in 1922 by that fall black
americans in florida will regretfully concede that. violence and intimidation unchecked by the 15th and the 19th amendments has kept them importantly away from the polls. so what are black women to do in the fall of 1920 as they look out across the terrain of the nation and take in the incompleteness of the work of the 19th amendment the patchwork that is voting rights for black women even after a federal amendment. let's visit haley when brown who 1920 was the president of the national association of colored women the largest political organization to represent black women in that year more than 300,000 members across the
country harley quinn brown had been an educator and allocutionist a club leader who had led the nacw suffrage department during the years along the road to the 19th amendment in the fall of 1920. holly queen brown is now president and with leading black women through a new political challenge what comes after a an amendment to the constitution the nacw resolves that what is demanded what is required now is federal legislation that would give teeth to the terms of both the 15th and the 19th amendment that would come back and undo the state laws that we're continuing to keep black women from the polls. this is the objective that haley quinn brown and the women of the nacw set out for themselves and
now they have to chart a way forward. harley quinn brown is i think it's fair to say an appreciator of the capacities of the leaders within organizations like the national association the american national women's suff. association the national women's party who had led the campaign for ratification of the 19th amendment and quinn brown goes so far is to call on alice paul she wants to be a part of the celebrations that alice paul is planning that will mark the ratification of the 19th amendment. she wants black women to be there and as importantly she wants to make a proposal to alice paul one that would lead to a linkage between black and white women's organizations that would work toward the federal
legislation that haley quinn brown and the women of the nacw are after haley queen brown and a delegation of black women will call on alice paul in the winter of 1921 during what turns out to be the last meeting of the national women's party and she will ask paul for just that and a political alliance that will continue the struggle for women's votes that will work toward women's universal votes through the winning of federal legislation. and what we know of course, is that alice call paul will decline that she will fold up the business of the national women's party an importantly move on by 1923 to call for an equal rights amendment to the constitution a cause that is still live and the subject of
much struggle and activism even in our own time, but this turn of events leaves african-american women to in essence build a new movement for women's voting rights one that they will partner in with african-american men. it is a movement that will continue to on the one hand work the ground game of women's politics. perhaps best exemplified by the work of african-american. in the city of chicago who will not only become important republican party operatives, but will use their power at the ballots to see to it that for the first time since 1901 in 1928 an african-american candidate. oscar de priest will be elected to congress and head to washington black women learn how
to use the voting power that they have to to change the outcome particularly on the local and state level. they will be part of the legal campaign waged importantly by the n-double-a-cp that campaign that will bring in to poll taxes to whites only primaries to grandfather clauses this effort both lobbying and litigation on the part of the ends. double acp will be a critical part of this story and these are the women these seeds of women's work that continues into the modern civil rights era the courageous profoundly dangerous work that we associate with women like fannie lou hamer and diane nash septum clark and ella baker the work at the grass roots the extraordinarily arduous work that requires not
only the ascent but the assembly and the risk taking of thousands of black americans across the american south it. is that campaign that will force the hand ultimately of congress and a president lyndon johnson and we'll give us a voting rights act in 1965. it is that moment that is the culmination of the work that women like holly quinn brown and those associated with the national association of color women had long done. and still american women do not have the unqualified right to vote even in 2020 the voter suppression tactics that kept women from the polls in 1920 have changed and yet we recognize the way in which voter id laws shuttered polling places exact match requirements the
purging of voter roles continue to deprive american women of the vote including women of the color the policies of voting officials, which do not care take the right to vote are still with us as we watch officials fumble and miss the mark in ensuring that we all of us will get to the polls in november 1920. and still, i think it's important to say that much has changed that a great deal about the political landscape for african-american women in 2020. was for some americans unimaginable and for many americans unspeakable 100 years ago. we can point to the ways in which african-american women today organize deliberate and vote as a block still changing
the outcomes in state and local but even in contests of national consequence, i'll point to 19 sorry 2017 and alabama's special senate election where african-american women not only turn out disproportionately. they ensure that the democratic candidate doug jones goes to the us senate they flip that seat from red to blue. we can look ahead to the ballots that many of us will cast in november and discover that somewhere between 120 and 130 black women are running for seats in congress this season. this is a number that dwarfs the record which had been set in 2016. that number had been 48 black women coming to washington as a
political force no longer as nearly first. and none of us have escaped the fact of senator kamala harrison's nomination to the democratic ticket. perhaps like me you tuned in for her acceptance speech. it was a historic moment certainly, but senator harris told us something about the history that had brought us there. she spoke directly about her own mother and the influence of her mother's education guidance and role as a role model her mother as one of the women on whose shoulders she was standing in the summer of 2020 and then senator harris named checked six women six women who were very much woven into the story that i
have shared with you this afternoon. there was mary church terrell the educator education activists the first president of the national council of negro. excuse me, the national association of colored women and suffragists parx salons in the early twentieth century someone very much part of the story of how black women get to the vote. i to be wells the journalist social scientist antisuffrage activists and suffragists was also name checked by kamala harris and there was mary mcleod bethune of florida who i've introduced diane nash was on senator harris's list on the architect of the selma campaign and a woman who worked entiringly and courageously
through the philosophy of non-violence to strategically win for black americans many of the civil rights victories that we associate with that era including that of the voting rights act. fannie lou hamer from mississippi, who's who's grassroots organizing and unparalleled courage in the state of mississippi brought her before news cameras both still and moving including in 1964 during that. years democratic national convention when hamer decried that convention and those who would see a mississippi delegation that had failed to get there by the ascent of black voters in the state fannie lou hamer looking to upturn the social order the racial order the political order in mississippi and across the country and doing it before
national news cameras and last senator harris invoked constance baker motley motley. not only a law graduate. that's something she certainly shared with senator harris, but a member of the naacps legal team doing that essential litigation work to challenge jim crow in the realm of political rights. constance baker motley who goes on to run for office hold office in the city of new york and in the new york state legislature and then of course will be appointed to the federal bench the first black woman to sit there appointed by president lyndon johnson. these are the women who today still grapple with the legacies and the fact of voter suppression in our own time surely, but they do so with a new sort of access a new sort of influence and do so as a force
in american politics. so with that i think i'll end and say thank you again so much to all our hosts for convening us yet again in this wonderful series of conversations, and i think i'm going to invite back jane campbell if i'm not mistaken. jane is going to join me for some conversation and i think for some question and answer, so, thanks jane for for doing this with me. well, thank you so much martha for that informative presentation. it really is. so much to think about and so much to understand i i have a couple of questions myself, and then we're starting to get some questions from our audience and i would remind the audience that you can put your questions in the q&a box and i will try to make sure that we get as many asked as possible while we have
dr. jones with us. so you describe so ably. continuing struggle of black women to have the right to vote to exercise the right to vote. is can you share? we we think now where when people talk about the black vote invariably they talk about the fact that black women are more reliable voters in many instances than black men. how has the how is the voter suppression from you know, jim crow forward treated women differently than men. so that's a great question and one of the things we know out of the lessons of 1920. is that part of what voter suppression aims to do is in a
sense treat women just as a treats men and so for example in 1920, there will be those southern states southern legislatures that quickly have to amend their poll tax provisions, which had been written as an imposition on men as a requirement of men now have to be written to now also apply to women so there's a way in which voter suppression on historically has looked to in a sense override differences of gender, but no question from my research. that african-american women face a distinct set of risks when it comes to political activism when it comes to work in the
political sphere when it comes to coming out to the polls. there is a denigration that the women of the national association of colored women are all too familiar with it's part of what binds them together that is to say the kind of gendered racism that posits black women as unsuited to be ladies unsuited to be mothers unsuited to be citizens and more is a special denigration directed at black women and at the same time black women very much come to politics because part of the conditions that suppress them politically include the scourge of sexual violence and so among black suffragists is an important thread that points to
the vulnerabilities of black women and also the necessity of any movement for women's votes or women's rights that movement must take up the the special burdens of sexual violence. and so today i think we can understand the ways in which there are echoes still on the one hand of voter suppression that is neutral on its face when it comes to gender and still imposes its own special burdens on black women including the scourge of violence and sexual violence like to think about i'm you when you think of some of the ways in which the violence against and wanting to vote came out as lynching.
and the violence against women came out as sexual violence. and how those threads as you've looked at this over over time and you know, you're most current book is about the 19th amendment in the consequences, but you you know had previously written birthright citizens and all wound up together. so i mean, this is this whole question of the role of african-american's in the american democracy is is not something that you have a limitation around what years so would you say that things have progressed or things have you know, where do you see the is the ark of history bending toward justice or is it still wiggling back and forth he after
writing vanguard it became clear to me that. it wasn't possible to tell the story of american voting rights is somehow you know that arc that bends toward justice. especially as we sit here in 2020 seven years out from the us supreme court decision in shelby county versus holder, which gutted the most powerful provisions of that voting rights act that african americans had so profoundly sacrificed to win that we live in a democracy in a constitutional democracy that does not guarantee to any citizen the right to vote and i think we can point to any generation every generation has
faced the necessity to define and redefine voting rights and there have always been communities that have been faced with the struggle the burden right on the citizen to breathe meaning give teeth and otherwise fully honor the spirit of democratizing moments the 15th and the 19th amendments and their ratifications, so if i had to sort of talk about the question of voting rights across the expanse of our history and to try and anticipate to use that to anticipate what's ahead um at a minimum, right? what's ahead i think is an ongoing struggle over voting rights it is taking one
particular and pointed form in 2020, but whatever the outcome of the electoral contest in 2020. i don't think the struggle over voting rights will be extinguished struggling over voter rights is very much. i think the american way okay. well, we've got several questions from the audience and two people have actually asked you to kind of put dorothy height into the narrative. she is one who you know, we saw doing an awful lot of work with the march on washington and one of the few women who got some recognition for her leadership. how does she fit into your into your narrative? well, thank you so much for introducing dorothy hyde into this because she does exemplify.
i think a strand a thread of this story which is to say that importantly for black women, especially coming out of the jim crow era politics is never reducible to voting or to holding office and this is something that dorothy high. he knows not only knows well practices. well, i think in the tradition of a mary mcleod bethune understanding that relationships of politics relationship of patronage relationships in washington that grow out of civil rights organizations on is has always been and continues to be for black americans in essential fac. of how black women do politics and make politics and for those of you who may not know.
dorothe. i think that's precisely why she's in some ways to me akin to a diane nash right? she is an architect. she is a strategist she is a woman with extraordinary powers of persuasion like mary church terrell, she knows how to work remarkably effectively with men who had no intention. i think oftentimes of linking arms with her linking arms with the national council of negro women dorothy height knew how to broker those kinds of relationships and most importantly i think she knew how to ensure that black american women would be able to use all their talents all their capacities all gifts on all their power in the interest of the collective. i think she was someone who
never lost sight of that over a very long and distinguished career. so, thank you so much for the chance to introduce her to this conversation. well taking that sort of strain of people who we don't know. or didn't know until you know, this symposium has been very intentional in trying to bring the stories of diverse voices. in women's suffrage and in women's political activity, but one of our one of our listeners writes in that she's a 60 year old white woman who grew up in the new york city public schools, and she got this beautiful pin from the archives that said votes for women 1920 to 2020 and she gave it to her 22 year old daughter. who said mom not all women got the right to vote. and she said why didn't i know
that i mean what what's wrong with our schools that that story is not told and maybe more importantly her daughter knew it her 22 year old daughter knew it. so are we bringing that story in for the next generation or was it just an accident that she had an extremely smart 22 year old daughter? well, i won't assume who her daughter's teachers were right, but but somewhere in their that work is being done and but there's an important backstory that'll just share briefly, which is that for for early generations of historians writing about women's suffrage collection that was begun in the 1880s and finished in the 1920s called the history of women's
suffrage the early volumes included elizabeth cady stanton and susan anthony and these volumes are six almost 6,000 pages they take up a lot of room on the shelf and i think for a long time we came to those volumes and too much thinking that they might be even comprehensive and it took some critical reading of those volumes by women's historians for us to understand and i'll mention dr. rosalind turbourg penn who in the 1970s publishes a dissertation that reads those volumes critically from the perspective of african-american women and what we learn is that those volumes while they are impressive and important left out a great deal of the history of women's suffrage the title
and especially elided the roles that black american women played in the long struggle for the vote. so we inherited some is that had to be taken on and then we do the work of producing? no new histories that begin to as you suggest tell a much more complex and and perhaps critical version of this story and i think we are still struggling with that some of you may have encountered some of the dust-ups around the monuments that are going up in this centennial year and who are the figures that should be included who should be honored in valorized. in connection with the suffrage centennial has not been a simple or an easy question for us, but i will say that for me. i think we are at the we are at
the beginning of a new era in understanding this in the centennial year and conferences like this have made it possible for us to tell these histories. yes in classrooms. i spend a lot of time with k through 12 educators, so that the history that i write makes it into those classrooms. i'm teaching the history of women in the vote with my students this semester johns hopkins who are writing their own biographies of lesser known black women suffragists and making them part of the record. so the work goes on but i think the toughest part is sort of where i began that celebration year oftentimes also is a year in which we would love to rest on myths that oversimplify the past and i like the 1920 to 2020 timeline because it opens up the space to say so what happened in
those hundred years after the 19th amendment was ratified and it opens up a space for us to tell many unless or well known stories including. i shared today. well, and i think one of the things we've approached this is that a celebration year ought to be also an evaluation year a reevaluation and that the nature of history is that yes, it happened in the past, but what gets told is often based on who's telling it. and we intentionally are. bringing more divorce diverse voices into telling the story and that as that happens. you know, your grandmother is part of the story and not just my grandmother and you know, my grandmother got into suffrage because she was all about prohibition. that was her. she was a women's christian
temperance union person and you know, that was a whole different movie. but she also grew up on a station on the underground railroad. and so she had a sense of of racial justice and and i had the privilege to know her because she lived to be 95 so there you know, are stories that it's so robust, but what couple of other quick questions and we're going to run out of time if we don't, you know, speak get our folks the right. one of the questions is there's a lot written or a lot at least some written about women who were white women who were opposed to women having the right to vote because they felt that somehow not having the right to vote women could be, you know in the home and on the pedestal blah blah blah, but there wasn't clearly an the black women that that message
didn't ring in black women's minds was there any what's there any back and forth were there a group of black women who were opposed to sufferage? and how did they play? even within the national association of colored women there are differences about i think less about the ultimate merits right of women's votes, but there are a lot of disagreements about how to get there. on and if someone like mary church terrell is comfortable and even eager for black women to keep one foot even in the most radical of suffrage politics on the road to the 19th amendment terrell will be part of alice paul's 1913 parade in washington. she will pick it. i think the only black woman along with her daughter phyllis. they are the only black women
who participate in in that action led by alice paul. carol is that committed and and concurs with those tactics while somebody like margaret murray washington is another leader on so from from alabama tuskegee who really cautions black women against becoming to embroiled in radical suffrage politics. i think washington thinks it's risky personally and it's risky politically and so while she is prepared to support voter education efforts among black women so that they will be prepared. if and when a 19th amendment is ratified, she's not prepared to recommend that the women of the nacw turn out and participate in radical suffrage politics, and
that's an important difference among black women. and to take another turn, you know, there were communities that were majority black communities. is there any evidence that those communities that were majority black communities that there was stronger voter participation were. were black women able to vote in local elections be in those communities before they were able to vote in the federal election was is it is there any is there any information about that kind of history? um, thank you for the question, and i'm going to refer you to the wonderful work of historian leigh at gidlow at wayne state university who is completing a book that is asking. a very trying to answer that very question one of the things
that the challenges that i faced in my research for example looking trying to look at localities in the state of north carolina when i got to the state archives thinking i would be able to figure out who voted when for whom how many black women voted it turned out that those materials hadn't been preserved. and so while the state archives still includes the records of the aggregate votes when we want to drill in oftentimes to what is happening on the local level. we're not able to in some places where aided by newspaper reports nearly all of which are partisan frankly and so have to be read carefully, but there's no question that even in a large city like chicago african-american women are organized deliberate and using their power at the polls even
before 1920 to do precisely i think with the questioners suggesting to turn the tide when it comes to electing aldermen or representatives to a state legislature even before they begin to influence who's coming to congress, and so i look forward to professor. goodlow's work that i think will really shed. more light on that question see now. we should have this we had her on our our series and we didn't have this question for her. so well we'll have to do round two i in your understanding if you look at you know that sort of question, you know 1920 to 2020. are some states better or worse at voter i guess at and have you
know you spoke about shelby versus holder and what's been the impact? i know that one of the discussions was when that was coming up is that that was focused on a certain number of states which had historical. difficult behavior with regard to voters suppression, but we've now gotten to the point where some new states are getting engaged with that. how is that? changed over time. so today i think we would say. that any sense that voters suppression is a uniquely or distinctly southern. problem has is no longer the case that we we look out across the national landscape and when we analyze voter suppression, we can see it at work. yes in the american south but we
can also find it if you will alive and well and working in the midwest and in the context of the coronavirus, i don't think there's a state in the us that isn't going to be touched or they're too few states in the us that are not going to be touched by the resulting voter suppression as very late in the game how we vote where we vote when we vote is shifting right under our feet and so voter suppression today looks to me very much like a national question. and of course we have to understand that the suppression of votes for example in the state of georgia has consequences for all of us, especially on in a year in which
we are electing a new chief executive that suppression is not only a regret a lament a tragedy for voters in georgia, but all of us will live with the consequences of those voters in georgia who might be kept from the polls. i use george as an example, but we could point to many other places. well, here's the final question. you made a mention of the fact that alice paul sort of turned from ensuring voter participation by women to the equal rights amendment, which is still pending today. do you think that? that conversation and this the discussion over the equal rights amendment how will that? deal with the full participation
of black women in our democracy so you'll know i'm a it's a great question and i'm a historian more though than a than a that a pundit or a prognosticator, but i think the lesson out of 1920 for the equal rights amendment is that we have to be aware on guard vigilant about the possibility that the women's issues and that women's issues are not so narrowly defined in the wake of an equal rights amendment that the discrimination the burdens and more experienced by women of color in this country get
bracketed out of that equation, right the story of the road to the 19th amendment is one about the ways in which women's issues were so narrowly defined that the problem the scourge of jim crow for example was not on suffrage association agendas even as it affected women, and it was permitted to persist even as the amendment purported to extend equal voting rights to african-american women so our work in the wake of a an equal rights amendment going forward if that's where we're headed. i think will be to learn from that lesson and in my view be more expansive intersectional diverse and inclusive in our definition of what a woman's question is well that that's certainly wraps it up dr. jones.
thank you for spending this hour with us. from virginia beach as he approaches his 100th day in office president biden will give his first address to a joint session of congress wednesday night our live coverage begins at 8pm eastern with the president's address at 9 pm eastern on c-span online at c-span.org or listen live on the c-span radio app.
next historian gretchen sorin author of driving while black she talks about the introduction of the automobile and how it changed the lives of african americans providing a new freedom that was supported by black-owned businesses and travel guides the free library in philadelphia hosted hosted this 35 minute event. welcome to the free library of philadelphia. my name is andy kahan director of author events. i do have one unfortunate update to our program rick burns will not participate in our discussion this evening due to a work-related trip. however, the good news is that you are going to see a sneak preview of his new documentary, which will be aired on pbs later this year. and which is based on 10 years of research by our guest a curator with more than 30 years experience dr. gretchen. soren has consulted for more than 250 institutions including the smithsonian the jewish museum