It was 1866, and the 11th National Women’s Rights Convention had just convened. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s confrontational speech was burning in her hands. Why was she nervous?
She walked onstage and sat next to known racists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, suffragists who couldn’t care less about Black women’s rights.
This was about to change.
Harper was the most recognized abolitionist orator besides Frederick Douglass, but she was also a woman, and Black. Despite having these “strikes” against her, she decided she would use her words to fight two wars.
“You white women speak here of rights. I speak of wrongs. I, as a colored woman … Let me … take my seat in one of your street cars … and the conductor will put up his hand and stop the car rather than let me ride,” she argued.
Her speech was embraced by women of color – but the white women’s faces showed embarrassed anger. Harper didn’t care! It was time they acknowledged that Black women faced racism AND sexism.
But Harper’s ultimate message? We must all work together towards liberation, if genuine rights for all were to be achieved.
Harper went up against the supposed “allies” in the women’s movement to advocate for the liberation of our people. We can take inspiration from her audacious example!