Unsung Female Civil Rights Pioneers Honored

Unsung Female Civil Rights Pioneers Honored

A traveling museum exhibit entitled “Freedom’s Sisters” captures heroic images of 20 Black women leaders.

Published September 15, 2011

Mary McLeod Bethune (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

It’s not often that we hear of the nation’s African-American civil rights heroines, but the Smithsonian is making sure that changes.


In Los Angeles on Wednesday, the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service revealed “Freedom’s Sisters” — an exhibit to tell stories of courage and sacrifice of women in the United States whose lives changed history. Located at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, videos and electronic projections brings images of 20 African-American historical figures to life including Ella J. Baker, Constance Baker Motley, Shirley Chisholm, Mary Church Terrell and Septima Poinsette Clark, to name a few.


“Much of our national memory of the civil rights movement is embodied by male figureheads whose visibility in boycotts, legal proceedings and mass demonstrations dominated newspaper and television coverage in the 1950s and ’60s,” reads the museum’s website. “Missing from that picture is a group of extraordinary women who, while less prominent in the media, shaped much of the spirit and substance of civil rights in America, just as their mothers and grandmothers had done for decades.”


Freedom’s Sisters is based on four themes — Dare to Dream, Inspire Lives, Serve the Public and Look to the Future. The Smithsonian is hoping to use the exhibit as an educational tool to target students.


The exhibition will be available at the Museum of Tolerance until Jan. 8, 2012. It will then travel to its next and last stop at the Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center, in Harlem, New York.


It’s about time that these unsung heroines receive the recognition they deserve.



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Written by Danielle Wright


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