InDepth with Brad Byrd: Omitted voices in the suffrage movement

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Brad Byrd: Welcome to InDepth. Tonight a history lesson and a look to the future. 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment that granted women the right to vote. The League of Women Voters stepping up and the Women’s Equality Day Committee are helping to organize events and promote the events. Joining me tonight is Dr. Ashley Jordan. She is the executive director of the Evansville African American Museum. Tell me about this weekend’s event.

Dr. Ashley Jordan: It is titled “The Empowerment of the Double Drawback: African American Women & the Suffrage Movement.” It speaks to the omitted voices of the suffrage movement. Often times, people think that this was one movement of women, but in actuality, leading into the 1920s, it was actually two fractured groups. Unfortunately for the side of some of the white contemporaries, they chose their race before gender and for African American women they did not get the right to vote when the passage of the amendment came in 1920. And for those woman, at least the access to the right to vote didn’t come until the Voting Rights Act in ’64.

Brad: And that was almost a hundred years after the Civil War. And that really speaks to the systemic issues of civil rights that were still very much alive in the 20th century.

Dr. Jordan: Correct.

Brad: And with this exhibit, you tell me there’s a re-enactment now involving this.

Dr. Jordan: Yes, we wanted to give more agency to those omitted voices so we’re going to have a first-person historical reenactment of Ida B Wells as well as Mary Church Terrell. These two ladies were forerunners in the movement and it’s so important that we highlight their stories because they were, basically, the foundation for people that would later come behind them. Although they didn’t see the vote come into fruition, it did make it possible for people like Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker in the 60s to carry on that torch and make sure those things did get achieved.

Brad: Where do we stand right now? I mean, much has been accomplished, but, in today’s world, there is still much to do.

Dr. Jordan: Correct. And I am hoping that from the exhibit, from the panels that you’ll see, people will not look at this exhibit or at least the woman that are being displayed as figures from a time long ago, but in fact we’d like to give a little contemporary message. Because just recently in 2017, in January, there was a mass women protest in response to some rhetoric that was being said that was anti-woman. And so there was women marches throughout the nation as far as Cincinnati all the way to San Francisco. And to date, those demonstrations were the largest lead group of mass demonstrations. All speaking to the notion of this ability and equality for women and that was just in 2017. So the journey yet continues and I’m hoping from the exhibit, those takeaways for women or just men, in general, will come and just have an open mind but will still be aware the struggle still continues.

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