The Case for Black With a Capital B



Empowering Women & Girls: Nicole Roberts Jones

by Talia Whyte

Nicole Roberts Jones
was the mistress of ceremonies at Boston's 43rd annual Martin Luther King Day Breakfast.  As the old adage goes, behind every great man is an even greater woman.  Coretta Scott King played a vital role as Dr. King’s wife and organizing partner.  There were many other women who had participated in the civil rights movement, but unlike Mrs. King, Betty Shabazz and Rosa Parks, their accomplishments have been given little attention.

Ella Baker, Septima Poinsette Clark, Fannie Lou Hamer and Vivian Malone Jones are all unsung heroines from that era.  Baker was a longtime organizer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) who worked behind the scenes.  Because she was neither a man nor a minister, she was not seriously considered to become the head of the organization.  Clark, better known as the “queen mother” of the civil rights movement, was an educator who played a role in a legal victory that would allow blacks to become principals in public schools in Charleston, South Carolina.  Hamer was a Mississippi sharecropper, who was beaten and jailed in 1962 for trying to register to vote.  She co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and spoke at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.  Jones defied Gov. George Wallace by becoming one of the first black students to enroll at the University of Alabama in 1963.

And there were countless other women, who are unknown, but worked tirelessly cooking meals and cleaning up after rallies.  These women should be the main role models for today’s black women, not stars on reality shows.   

While no woman gave a speech at the 1963 March on Washington, it seems like their accomplishments are now being recognized.  Myrlie Evers-Williams delivered the invocation at President Obama’s inauguration – the first ever done by a woman and layperson.

“There’s a Chinese saying, ’Women hold up half the world,” said former NAACP chairman Julian Bond. “In the case of the civil rights movement it’s probably three-quarters of the world.”