WSW: Women's Inspiring Legacy Of Civil Rights

Jan 16, 2017

Rosa Parks, whose refusal to move to the back of a bus, touched off the Montgomery bus boycott and the beginning of the civil rights movement, is fingerprinted by police Lt. D.H. Lackey in Montgomery, Ala., Feb. 22, 1956.
Credit Gene Herrick, The Associated Press / AP

The Executive Director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College says in the history of the civil rights movement women have become symbols, rather than recognized for their work. Mia Henry says many women made valuable contributions in the fight for civil rights. 

Henry will discuss “Taking Inspiration From Women in the Civil Rights Movement" Wednesday at noon at Western Michigan University's Lee Honors College. It’s the first in the Lyceum Lecture Series for this semester, the theme is Fulfilling America’s Promise: Racial Equity and Justice. Henry’s lecture is also part of the events at WMU to honor the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Junior.

Henry says the role of the church in the civil rights movement focuses more attention on pastors, who were men. She says the public speaking role of preachers captured the spot light. Henry says that tends to get more attention than the community building of a movement. But Henry says the women who played a role in the civil rights movement did not always remain in assigned roles. She says even an icon like Rosa Parks is not recognized for her long role in the civil rights movement.

Asked about how social justice supporters are viewing the inauguration of Donald Trump as President this week, Henry calls it a “frightening reality.” She says Trump’s attacks on people who criticize him, including a civil rights hero like Congressman John Lewis, are disturbing. Henry says it’s important on this MLK holiday to study how Martin Luther King Junior and women in the movement used all of their skills to advance the cause of civil rights.