3 Audacious Black Women Who Would NOT Stand Up

Black History Month 

3 Audacious Black Women Who Would NOT Stand Up 

What comes to your mind when you hear of influential women? Are you motivated to follow in their footsteps and learn a lesson or two from their deeds?

History is full of gems; women who courageously decided to stand for what was right and make a change in the society around them.

Read the stories of Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin and Irene Morgan Kirkaldy below...

Although they lived at a different point in history, their life stories can help you live your life to the fullest. Below are examples of women whose lives of courage are worth imitating by any woman in leadership.

3 Influential Women in the History of Black American Civil Rights 

Rosa Parks (1913-2005)

Rosa Parks gives a speech at the Poor Peoples March in 1968

Photo by Unseen Histories

This American activist is honored as “the mother of the freedom movement” and “the first lady of civil rights.”

Her refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama led to her arrest on December 1, 1955, and the Montgomery bus boycott that lasted 381 days. This bravery was her major turning point.

Beyond her efforts in the journey towards ending racial segregation, Rosa was active in the Black Power movement and supported political prisoners in the US.

Claudette Colvin

Claudette Colvin was a civil rights pioneer before Rosa Parks.

At the age of 15 years, she refused to give up her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. This was her major turning point.

Notably, it was 9 months earlier than Rosa’s experience, which is widely known.

Irene Morgan Kirkaldy (1917-2007)

Irene Kirkaldy was an African-American woman whose major turning point was her arrest in Virginia. It was on July 1944 when she made the courageous decision. Irene refused to give up her seat to a white couple in the segregated bus. When the sh

eriff brought by the driver presented her with an arrest warrant, she tore it and threw it out of the bus window. She kicked him when he tried grabbing her.

Irene would later be charged with resisting arrest and violating Virginia’s segregation law. However, she pled guilty to the former charges and not guilty to the latter charges.

Overcoming Challenges

These 3 women faced challenges in their efforts to bring a change.

Rosa Parks paid a price for the bus incident; she received death threats and was fired from her job. However, she didn’t stop her endeavors. She would later be recognized nationally as a symbol of strength and dignity in the struggle for the end of racial segregation. Rosa committed to fighting for human rights and social justice till her demise.

Her strong standing brought her numerous awards in her lifetime; Golden Plate Awards, NAACP’s Spingarn Medal, Congressional Gold Medal, and Presidential Medal of Freedom among others.

Unlike Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin was an unmarried and pregnant teen at the time of her arrest. Thus, the civil rights campaigners did not give her the credit she deserved, as they felt Colvin was not an appropriate symbol for the cause.

However, she still went ahead, along with 3 other women, to bring a suit challenging the Alabama buses segregation, a case they won in 1956.

Furthermore, her court case made it difficult for her to get or keep her job. She would later move to New York City where she worked as a nurse aide for 35 years until her retirement in 2004.  

Colvin admitted to being disappointed about not getting more recognition in the history of the civil rights movement. However, it was not until the early 2000s that the act of this unsung hero was recorded by revisionist historians and journalists. Moreover, her case was cleared in 2021, 66 years after her arrest.

white and blue train chairs

Photo by Arthur Humeau

Irene Morgan Kirkaldy was still recovering from a miscarriage when the July 1944 incident occurred, and her strong stand also resulted in her being jailed. Like the other 2 cases, the court rulings were a blow to segregation laws as they were a violation of Equal Rights Protection.

Irene would later receive numerous awards such as the Presidential Citizens Medal for her actions. Long after her death on August 10, 2007, her courageous act is remembered for bringing change to African Americans in the US.

Who Inspired These Women?

These 3 civil rights activists all had people who inspired, supported and influenced their strong decisions.

Rosa’s mother, Leona McCauley taught her how to read from a tender age. She would later attend segregated schools. Rosa’s husband, Raymond Parks, supported her in her efforts to attain a high school diploma.

Rosa herself was inspired by Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old teenager who refused to give up her seat 9 months before Rosa's incident. 

Growing up as a Black student in segregated schools, Claudette dreamed of becoming a civil rights attorney and a president one day. Additionally, the actions of Black icons like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, which she learned in class, influenced her actions.

Irene was helped by the NAACP which took her case that would go all the way to the Supreme Court.

Rosa Parks mentions Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as her role model in her book Quiet Strength: The Faith, the Hope, and the Heart of a Woman Who Changed a Nation.

Lessons for Women Leaders

We can learn several lessons from these 3 audacious, bold and courageous women:

  • Do not tolerate any act of social injustice and oppression.
  • Every woman leader needs to be courageous to change the lives of many.
  • Take that bold step. It makes a huge difference in your society regardless of how small it may seem.
  • Determination yields success.
  • Don’t be scared of failure.
  • It is okay to go contrary to conventional thinking.
  • Persevere in face of challenges.
  • Don’t be scared to stand alone for what is right.
  • Know your rights.

Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin, and Irene Morgan Kirkaldy are great examples of bold women who dared to make a change. Here are some inspiring quotes from them.

“I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people.” Rosa Parks

“I always tell young people to hold on to their dreams. And sometimes you have to stand up for what you think is right even if you stand alone.” Claudette Colvin

“Never be afraid to write what you believe. If the message speaks the truth, others will fear your words for you.” Irene Morgan Kirkaldy

About the author, WomenWILL

WomenWILL is a women leaders media platform. Our mission is to empower, elevate and celebrate women in positions of leadership, influence and decision-making to make the world a safer place for women.
To join the conversation across our podcast network and for community engagement, transcripts and case studies, visit WomenWILL.World.

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