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Michigan State University

Women's Suffrage and the 19th Amendment: Black Women's Suffrage: Challenges and Contributions

Background Overview

Black women shaped the U.S. suffrage movement in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as a critical force for change, battling interlocking oppressions of structural racism and sexism.  As the suffrage movement evolved during the antebellum period through the intersections of abolitionism and women’s rights activism, black women’s contributions were invaluable in collective efforts to advance civil and human rights. Black women faced fundamental resistance in their progressive work, as systemic racism plagued efforts of white women suffrage activists. For example, racism was amplified in white women’s responses to the Fifteenth Amendment, which aimed to enfranchise black men. Once the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, blacks remained disenfranchised through poll taxes, literacy tests, intimidation, and violence.

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