By Ann D. Gordon, Bettye Collier-Thomas, John H. Bracey, Arlene Voski Avakian, Joyce Avrech Berkman

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Extra resources for African American Women and the Vote, 1837-1965

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The coalition between black and white suffragists fell apart shortly after the passage of the amendment. Racism among white women seeking an equal rights amendment prevented them from relating to the plight of black women voters experiencing disfranchisement. African American women in the political arena quickly strengthened their coalitions with black men to fight the loss of political equity among both groups. For the most part, the political efforts of black women in the Republican party, and later in the Democratic party, appear peripheral because scholars who have written about this period focus primarily on male political activity.

The authors examine the resurgence of black political power to find the role of women within it. Words from the late Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall about celebrating the bicentennial of the American Constitution seem fitting to conclude this overview. Addressing a group in May 1987, Justice Marshall talked about how defective the Constitution was at its inception 200 years ago. Arguing that the present-day Constitution was not the vision of those who debated it in 1787, Marshall noted that indeed "slavery has been abolished and the right to vote has been granted blacks and women, but the credit does not belong to the framers.

It is of vital importance to understanding the significance of the meeting in 1837 to realize that, in this first attempt to forge a political force of women, participants faced up to the reality of sharp divisions among themselves. They defined womanhood as a universal ideal, difficult but necessary to achieve in a racist society. Their remarkable resolutions included this: That this Convention do firmly believe that the existence of an unnatural prejudice against our colored population, is one of the chief pillars of American slaverytherefore, that the more we mingle with our oppressed brethren and sisters, the more deeply are we convinced of the sinfulness of that anti-Christian prejudice which is crushing them to the earth in our nominally Free States ...

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