Women Marchers Attacked at Inauguration
Part 2: Black Women Sent to the Back of the March
Ida B. Wells-Barnett
Black Women Sent to the Back of the March
Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the journalist who led an anti-lynching campaign beginning in the late 19th century, organized the Alpha Suffrage Club among African American women in Chicago and brought members with her to participate in the 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, D.C.
Mary Church Terrell also organized a group of African American women to be part of the suffrage parade.
But the organizers of the march asked that the African American women march at the back of the parade. A constitutional amendment for woman suffrage, the object of the parade, would have to be ratified by two-thirds of the state legislatures after garnering two-thirds votes in both the House and Senate.
In the Southern states, opposition to woman suffrage was intensified as legislators feared that granting women the vote would add even more black voters to the voting rolls. So, the parade organizers reasoned, a compromise had to be struck: African American women could march in the suffrage parade, but in order to prevent raising even more opposition in the South, they would have to march at the back of the march. The votes of Southern legislators, in Congress and in the state houses, were possibly at stake, the organizers reasoned.
Mary Terrell accepted the decision. But Ida Wells-Barnett did not. She tried to get the white Illinois delegation to support her opposition of this segregation, but found few supporters. The Alpha Suffrage Club women either marched in the back, or, as did Ida Wells-Barnett herself, decided not to march in the parade at all.
But, as the parade progressed, Wells-Barnett emerged from the crowd and joined the (white) Illinois delegation, marching between two white supporters. She refused to comply with the segregation.
This was neither the first nor the last time that African American women found their support of women's rights received with less than enthusiasm.