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Faces of the Black Suffrage Movement, Part 7
 
As important as it is to know our history, Faces of the Black Suffrage Movement series shows the need to know our her-story. I've learned so much during research of the seven women we profiled. We could’ve shared the stories of more fearless Black women. How amazing they were.
 
The most common refrain from both Black and white women is they never heard of most of them. The most disappointing discovery was learning how racist white women leaders of the Suffrage Movement were toward their Black sisters in the struggle. Similar to today, Black women believed all women should work together to achieve a common goal.
 
“We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity, and society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul,” said Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.
 
Since white women needed the legislative support of Southerners they would make the calculated decision that it was they or we, but it couldn’t be both. As usual, we were told to wait our turn.
 
At the famous 1913 suffrage march in Washington D.C., movement leader Alice Paul instructed Wells to walk at the back end of the crowd. She refused. “Either I go with you or not at all,” the most famous Black woman in America, told organizers. “I am not taking this stand because I personally wish for recognition. I am doing it for the future benefit of my whole race.”
In the final days of the 2020 election, 100 years since women won the right to vote, it’s only fitting that we end with Ida B. Wells. She went from fighting for women to vote to becoming the first Black woman to run for political office. Born into slavery she understood the incongruity of the United States devaluing its citizens based on race and gender. As a consequence, Wells would devote her life to righting the wrongs of racism and sexism.
 
She also knew the power of organizing Black women, which prompted her to found the Alpha Suffrage Club in 1913. In only three years, the membership of Wells’ political organization grew to thousands. Their work is responsible for Chicago’s first Black alderman being elected to represent the 2nd Ward in 1915. Oscar De Priest, a Republican, would go on to become the first Black congressman, since Reconstruction. 
 
In 1910, Wells wrote How Enfranchisement Stops Lynching, which appeared in Original Rights Magazine. Imagine, 110 years later the article could be titled, How Enfranchisement Stops Police Killings. Wells was advocating for voter activism on a micro level more than 100 years ago.
 
The women we highlighted over the past seven weeks spent their lives fighting two enemies. Most were fortunate to have supportive husbands, which gave them the freedom to travel, write, speak, work and organize for women’s rights and civil rights. 

Although many Black women of the Suffrage Movement have been forgotten, our nation owes them a debt of gratitude for their selfless and relentless determination.
 
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Thank you,
 
Delmarie Cobb
Ida’s Legacy Committee

Paid for and authorized by Ida's Legacy Committee. A copy of our report filed with the State Board of Elections is (or will be) available on the Board's official website (www.elections.il.gov) or for purchase from the State Board of Elections, Springfield, Illinois. Contributions and gifts are not deductible as charitable contributions for Federal income tax purposes. 
The Ida B. Wells Legacy Committee is not affiliated with the Ida B. Wells family or any other endeavor bearing her name.

 
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