Female Struggles through the Civil Rights Era

February 19, 2013 in 1960s-1970s

Women across the nation aided in the civil right movement, each in their own way.  Some women, such as Mae Street Kidd and Audrey Grevious led movements while having to cope with their own personal, internal struggles.  The sacrifices did not end with black women, all types of women aided in the movement.

Mae Street Kidd

Mae Street Kidd

Readers learn about Mae Street Kidd’s life through Passing for Black, a book written by Wade Hall about Mae Street Kidd, with her help. Kidd’s mother has some “black blood” making Kidd ten percent black.  Because of the connection she has with her mother she spends her entire life trying to “pass for black”.  Most people regard her as white because she is so light skinned but Kidd prefers to be considered black.  Throughout her life she is faced with the difficulty of not being able to fully identify with any race.  When she was young, other black students would taunt her and throw rocks at her.  Kidd describes feeling as though neither race wanted to claim her and that she did not actually belong in any of them.

These hardships did not end when she was out of school.  While Kidd was working in the Kentucky General Assembly, after an incredible amount of hard work, she got a bill passed for low-cost housing.  This bill helped thousands of low income families get decent housing.  Because of this achievement, her picture is hung in the Kentucky Housing Corporation Office in Frankfort.  Many people openly told Kidd that the reason her picture is there is because she is light skinned.  They look over the hard work and dedication she put toward the goal and merely attribute her race.  The internal and external struggles Mae Street Kidd had to deal with were common for other civil rights activists and people of all races during the 1930s through the 1970s.

Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious was a key player in the civil rights movement in Kentucky.  Born in 1930, Grevious was raised in a time desperate for change.  Grevious’ mother was a domestic servant, otherwise known as a maid, and Grevious spent some of her childhood helping her mother in the homes she worked in.  Racism was a common thing to Grevious and her childhood friends, as she describes in her oral history, “…we had not paid that much attention to it (racism) because we had all grown up with it.”  It wasn’t till Grevious got a job as a secretary at the Town Crier in Lexington, Kentucky that she realized the depth of racism.  This prompted her to become active in the NAACP and first become secretary, then to become president.

Grevious encouraged people to notice the injustices they were living with and in and called them to action.  Grevious is still an active member in the NAACP and calls blacks around the nation to stand up for their rights. See the transcripts and videos of the 1999 oral history interviews of Audrey Grevious archived in the Kentucky Historical Society’s Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky website.

Katherine van Wormer

Dr. Katherine van Wormer

Katherine Van Wormer, author of The Maid Narratives, spoke with my class last week and introduced us to an array of new ideas including that white women aided the movement even when facing opposition from their husbands, causing conflict within the household.  All women that participated were important to the movement, even if it was only driving their maids home so they could more easily boycott the bus system.  The struggle within their household introduced their children to the civil rights movement and what was happening outside of their homes.

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1 response to Female Struggles through the Civil Rights Era

  1. I love how thorough you were! get it girl!

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