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Freedom's Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830 to 1970

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THE FIRST COMPREHENSIVE HISTORY OF THE VITAL ROLE WOMEN -- BOTH BLACK AND WHITE -- PLAYED IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT In this groundbreaking and absorbing book, credit finally goes where credit is due -- to the bold women who were crucial to the success of the civil rights movement. From the Montgomery bus boycott to the lunch counter sit-ins to the Freedom Rides, Lynne THE FIRST COMPREHENSIVE HISTORY OF THE VITAL ROLE WOMEN -- BOTH BLACK AND WHITE -- PLAYED IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT In this groundbreaking and absorbing book, credit finally goes where credit is due -- to the bold women who were crucial to the success of the civil rights movement. From the Montgomery bus boycott to the lunch counter sit-ins to the Freedom Rides, Lynne Olson skillfully tells the long-overlooked story of the extraordinary women who were among the most fearless, resourceful, and tenacious leaders of the civil rights movement. Freedom's Daughters includes portraits of more than sixty women -- many until now forgotten and some never before written about -- from the key figures (Ida B. Wells, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ella Baker, and Septima Clark, among others) to some of the smaller players who represent the hundreds of women who each came forth to do her own small part and who together ultimately formed the mass movements that made the difference. Freedom's Daughters puts a human face on the civil rights struggle -- and shows that that face was often female.


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THE FIRST COMPREHENSIVE HISTORY OF THE VITAL ROLE WOMEN -- BOTH BLACK AND WHITE -- PLAYED IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT In this groundbreaking and absorbing book, credit finally goes where credit is due -- to the bold women who were crucial to the success of the civil rights movement. From the Montgomery bus boycott to the lunch counter sit-ins to the Freedom Rides, Lynne THE FIRST COMPREHENSIVE HISTORY OF THE VITAL ROLE WOMEN -- BOTH BLACK AND WHITE -- PLAYED IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT In this groundbreaking and absorbing book, credit finally goes where credit is due -- to the bold women who were crucial to the success of the civil rights movement. From the Montgomery bus boycott to the lunch counter sit-ins to the Freedom Rides, Lynne Olson skillfully tells the long-overlooked story of the extraordinary women who were among the most fearless, resourceful, and tenacious leaders of the civil rights movement. Freedom's Daughters includes portraits of more than sixty women -- many until now forgotten and some never before written about -- from the key figures (Ida B. Wells, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ella Baker, and Septima Clark, among others) to some of the smaller players who represent the hundreds of women who each came forth to do her own small part and who together ultimately formed the mass movements that made the difference. Freedom's Daughters puts a human face on the civil rights struggle -- and shows that that face was often female.

30 review for Freedom's Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830 to 1970

  1. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    What amazing women!! It's a shame MLK gets disproportionate credit for the actual organizing and dirty work during the Civil Rights Movement that was greatly done by women. In my 1960s history class in college I learned a lot about the sexism in both the anti-war and Civil Rights movements of the 1960s (ie men not listening to women in the first place but when women had good ideas or led important grassroots efforts, then the men taking credit) and this book made that real. I also found it very What amazing women!! It's a shame MLK gets disproportionate credit for the actual organizing and dirty work during the Civil Rights Movement that was greatly done by women. In my 1960s history class in college I learned a lot about the sexism in both the anti-war and Civil Rights movements of the 1960s (ie men not listening to women in the first place but when women had good ideas or led important grassroots efforts, then the men taking credit) and this book made that real. I also found it very inspiring to read about what ordinary people were able to accomplish to get laws and attitudes changed. Their bravery is amazing.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    An eye-opening, transcendent account of the civil rights movement, punctuated with the power of women. I was impressed with the transparent account that didn't shy away from the movement's failings. It's stronger when we don't whitewash everything to be perfect and squeaky clean.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    Useful compilation of biographical sketches of women who have played central, if often unrecognized roles, in the African American Freedom movement. Olson's got a good sense of the telling story and the style is smooth. My favorites are the chapters on Ella Baker (though we have a full biography from Barbara Ransby which is required reading for anyone interested in the field) and, especially, Diane Nash, still more or less invisible even within standard American histories.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Susan O

    This was an excellent survey of the civil rights movement focusing on the lives of the women involved. While men were officially the leaders of the primary organizations, and the ones that the media usually focused on, women did much of the grassroots organizing and campaigning. They were often the first ones out front, were arrested and beaten, but still welcomed strangers from out of town into their homes simply because they came to help. Olson does an excellent job synthesizing a lot of This was an excellent survey of the civil rights movement focusing on the lives of the women involved. While men were officially the leaders of the primary organizations, and the ones that the media usually focused on, women did much of the grassroots organizing and campaigning. They were often the first ones out front, were arrested and beaten, but still welcomed strangers from out of town into their homes simply because they came to help. Olson does an excellent job synthesizing a lot of primary sources and interviews and presenting the different views of women from different walks of life. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the civil rights movement or women's history.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Eve

    Holy crap this book is amazing. History and more history. How women were the backbone of the civil rights struggle, usually pushed into the background. How the experiences of black women and white women differed, and the history that made it difficult for them to work together at times. The gripping drama of the Montgomery bus boycott, the Freedom Rides, and the events of Selma. Its in there. Holy crap this book is amazing. History and more history. How women were the backbone of the civil rights struggle, usually pushed into the background. How the experiences of black women and white women differed, and the history that made it difficult for them to work together at times. The gripping drama of the Montgomery bus boycott, the Freedom Rides, and the events of Selma. It’s in there.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lonni

    Read at the same time I was reading the last of the Taylor Branch books on the main Civil Rights Movement. Amazing how women get left out of mainstream books, and yet there is enough info to fill a fascinating, readable book!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Doris Raines

    What. A. Great. Book. Let. Freedom. Ring. The. Struggle. Is. Not. Over. Ever. Day. We. Awaken. Life. Alone. Is. A. Struggle. Life. Must. Still. Go. Own.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Book focuses more on the contributions of white women to the civil rights movement, than I expected, but still a pretty solid work.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Klein

    Amazing. Read this.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Quotable: [T]he ones who came out first for the movement were the women. If you follow the mass meetings, not the stuff on TV, youd find women out there giving all the direction. As a matter of fact, we used to say, Once you got the women, the men got to come. - Stokely Carmichael Her [Pauli Murphy] activism had led Barry Bingham, the son of the publisher of the Louisville Courier-Journal, to write a presidential aide that Mrs. Roosevelt has made herself offensive to Southerners by a too great Quotable: “[T]he ones who came out first for the movement were the women. If you follow the mass meetings, not the stuff on TV, you’d find women out there giving all the direction. As a matter of fact, we used to say, ‘Once you got the women, the men got to come.’ “ - Stokely Carmichael Her [Pauli Murphy] activism had led Barry Bingham, the son of the publisher of the Louisville Courier-Journal, to write a presidential aide that Mrs. Roosevelt “has made herself offensive to Southerners by a too great affection for Negroes.” “We just don’t love human freedom to take real risks for it.” – Lillian Smith “Don’t blame people too much for being indifferent to your ills when you don’t ask them to drop their indifference and join with you.” -Mary White Ovington Now that the boycott [Montgomery bus boycott] was over, there was some carping, particularly by whites who opposed it, that the protest, in fact, had accomplished nothing, that the Supreme Court, not the boycott, had ended Jim Crow on the city’s buses. “What could they possibly gain from the boycott that they can’t gain from the federal courts?” Joe Azbell, city editor of the Advertiser, had grumbled early in the protest. What could they gain? A sense of dignity, self-respect, and power; a feeling of community; a determination to claim basic rights; a loss of fear – victories that were nothing short of revolutionary for blacks in the Deep South in the 1950’s. What she [Diane Nash] did was ask a simple question, one that would have far-reaching consequences for the city of Nashville. “Mayor West,” she said, “do you feel it is wrong to discriminate against a person solely on the basis of the race or color?” The question went to the heart of nonviolence, bypassing all the political boilerplate and appealing directly to West’s conscience. The mayor did not disappoint. He nodded – and then said yes. [H]er [Penny Patch] involvement also stemmed from a deep sense of personal responsibility, the result of her childhood preoccupation with Germans’ guilt for the Holocaust. “Here was evil, and I could go and do something about it,” she remembered thinking. “If I didn’t, I would be just like all those people in Germany.” The repercussions of the MFDP [Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party] challenge [Sending MFDP elected delegates to the 1964 Democratic National Convention to call into question the “regular” Mississippi delegates’ right to be seated and represent the Democrats of Mississippi], however, extended far beyond its effect on Southern blacks. It led to a revolutionary overhaul of the Democratic Party, opening the party to blacks, women, and other groups that had had little or no representation in its councils before. In 1968, the Democrats kept their promise and seated as interracial delegation from Mississippi (which included a number of MFDP members). But the most radical changes came at the 1972 convention and later, when all delegations had to include minorities in roughly the same proportions as their population in the states. In addition, women were to make up at least half of the delegates. A workshop on the subject [women’s subservient role in society and civil rights organizations] was penciled in, with both men and women participating. [Heather] Tobis was stunned by what she heard there: “The men were telling the women what reality was. They were denying our reality in a way that was so shocking.” On subjects like Vietnam or civil rights, perhaps, she might never challenge such male certitude. “Maybe on everything else, I might think I’m stupid or don’t know enough. But you can’t know more about what I actually think than I do… This is a discussion about what our life is like, are women listened to? No, we don’t particularly think we’re listened to. Then [a man] says, ‘Oh, yes, they’re listened to’…and proceeds to ignore what we just said.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This is probably the best book I have read recently. I acknowledge that the impact it had on me is due at least partially to my own ignorance on the subject, but I feel that this is at least partially the point - the common narrative, the 'common knowledge' about the civil rights movement, is over-simplified and male-centric. Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and possibly Sojourner Truth or Diane Nash are famous names from gradeschool textbooks, but unless students elect to do further study - and in my This is probably the best book I have read recently. I acknowledge that the impact it had on me is due at least partially to my own ignorance on the subject, but I feel that this is at least partially the point - the common narrative, the 'common knowledge' about the civil rights movement, is over-simplified and male-centric. Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and possibly Sojourner Truth or Diane Nash are famous names from gradeschool textbooks, but unless students elect to do further study - and in my experience, these women were talked about in such a dry manner that few people would have done so - that is where their story ends. Rosa Parks is remembered as a tired old seamstress, not an activist who did tireless work for the cause; Tubman, Truth, Nash, and the others seem like safe, even tired figures. Activists like Martin Luther King Jr get (rightly) lauded as inspiring, as moving, as instrumental in the process of equality, but the movement could never have happened if not for the thousands of women who helped it along the way. This is the first time I had even heard of the students and speakers and organizers and protestors, college graduates and ex-prostitutes and school children and old women from every walk of life, both black and white, who worked and taught and marched and sweated and bled in courtrooms and schools and streets and buses, for their cause. It's positively criminal that their stories - inspiring, infuriating, and everything in between - aren't spoken of more. To its credit, the book also doesn't shy away from the racial tension between the black and white female activists, and while talking about the complexities of every issue from every perspective, does not over-champion the white activists or excuse their ignorance. To my inexpert eye every page seemed wonderfully well-researched, and filled to the brim with original quotes from contemporary sources, which is the most important part of all. Reading this book left me saddened and furious by turns, feeling triumphant one moment and horrified the next. Yet I feel like it was a formative experience for me. Everyone should read this book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Charles Collyer

    This book fills in important detail about the roles of many women who were the drivers of social change before, during, and after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. It makes compelling reading, especially for those who have a little preparation in African American history or in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. For the former, Lynne Olson gives the backstories of many events that have received less public attention than they deserve. One example concerns the attempt by a This book fills in important detail about the roles of many women who were the drivers of social change before, during, and after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. It makes compelling reading, especially for those who have a little preparation in African American history or in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. For the former, Lynne Olson gives the backstories of many events that have received less public attention than they deserve. One example concerns the attempt by a Virginia senator to scuttle the 1964 Civil Rights Act by adding "sex" to the list of bases for non-discrimination. His attempt failed, with the result that the Act as passed prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, and sex. The book will be especially valuable for male teachers of history and historical psychology. For those with some nonviolence background, the author details the evolution of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from committed nonviolence to the more unfocused, racialized stance that it eventually took. An important message for today's nonviolent activists is that although nonviolence is very often necessary for movements to succeed, it is not sufficient. Furthermore, its maintenance is more difficult than many idealists imagine. Some attention to self-care and effort to keep relationships in good repair are called for. For readers with very little prior knowledge, this might be a difficult introduction to civil rights history. So a small caution there - but please come back to this book later if it proves too much at first. Lynne Olson is a first-rate narrative historian. The lives of women activists are related with a balance of sympathy and objectivity, and with attention to the complexity of the pressures they faced from society, the government, the segregationist opposition, and each other.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    Instead of watching the talking heads on TV, I decided to spend the last few weeks of this endless election reading non-fiction and remembering how far we have come. As we get ready to say goodby to our first black president and prepare for our first female president (I refuse to even consider the alternative), it is wonderful to read about the women who made all this possible. Lynne Olson is a masterful researcher who must spend years writing a book. This book covers 140 years of a battle that Instead of watching the talking heads on TV, I decided to spend the last few weeks of this endless election reading non-fiction and remembering how far we have come. As we get ready to say goodby to our first black president and prepare for our first female president (I refuse to even consider the alternative), it is wonderful to read about the women who made all this possible. Lynne Olson is a masterful researcher who must spend years writing a book. This book covers 140 years of a battle that has not ended yet. Instead of focusing on the celebrated heroes, she digs into the background and finds the real heroes. While Martin Luther King was making speeches and compromises, the women were on the frontline, being jailed, beaten and firebombed for sitting on a bus or lunchroom. Olson has a way of making these people come to life as she follows them throughout their lifetimes. Many of them speak of the 60s as a magical time when everyone got along as they fought for shared values. But, that ended and battles ensued as the women's movement stole the white women and the black women decided to stick by their men. I am sure I will be thinking about this book for a long time and may add to this review as I digest it. It would be a great book club book since there is so much to think about.

  14. 4 out of 5

    ben

    amanda sent this book my way for my bday (i think) because I was venting to her about how minimized the african american women were by black leaders during the civil rights movement. i kept reading stories about MLK JR where it felt like he either just recruited really strong women or built on their success since the country was not ready for black women to be heroes yet. very inspiring stories in this book of several different women. a great read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lorilee

    I loved reading about these amazing women. I think most people would agree our public schools do little to celebrate women and African Americans so I learned so much. I had only heard of 3 of the women mentioned in this book. The acronyms were starting to get difficult to decipher. Anyway, I liked the book and would recommend to anyone.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bett

    Wonderfuly researched and skillfully written, the stories of the women, white and black, of the civil rights movement, who were often there long before the nationally known "leaders" showed up. Fascinating.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Felicia

    Amazing stories about truly amazing women! The reason the book is only getting three stars is because there were several parts that I felt were incredibly slow. However, if was definitely worth reading.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Marilena

    I was impressed with the depth and scope of the book, and how well written it was. I can't believe how much I didn't know about the role of women, black and white, and men in the civil rights movement.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    Very interesting to know the people who drove the civil rights movement, and it's so good that they are finally getting some credit. Their courage and commitment is absolutely amazing.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kit

    Something I'd like to see all of my daughters (step, -in-law, grand, and ...) read. Particularly if you'd like to know about the early civil rights and feminist movements.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    This book contains the stories of important Americans we all should know about.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kara Merry

    Great book-amazing journalistic style.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    Very well written book about some amazing women.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marjorie

    Wow I knew nothing about all these women who made things happen!!!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra Hetherington

    Such inspiring women! It's tragic their story is not as well known.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

    Amazing women in deranged times. Where these women found the courage and strength to organize and push back, I don't know. It was wonderful to read about these Queens of resistance, their lives and struggles in the movement and their isolation after its collapse. The print in this book was wretched but I did enjoy acquiring the information. Also, there was a repeated point about Pauli Murray having a mother-daughter relationship with older women that just felt off. Maybe they were just friends Amazing women in deranged times. Where these women found the courage and strength to organize and push back, I don't know. It was wonderful to read about these Queens of resistance, their lives and struggles in the movement and their isolation after its collapse. The print in this book was wretched but I did enjoy acquiring the information. Also, there was a repeated point about Pauli Murray having a mother-daughter relationship with older women that just felt off. Maybe they were just friends from different generations? The information presented didn't give such an intimate portrayal of the relationships. Fascinating look at the women in the movement.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Eva

  28. 5 out of 5

    Higgity

  29. 5 out of 5

    Robin Mandell

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cherylann Felt

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