As we close out February and reflect upon Black History Month, use this moment to honor those who have come before us in movement work and learning from their accomplishments. Movements led by Black people offer us wisdom and guidance that can be applied in our ongoing struggles for equal rights in the United States.
Black history teaches us that movements are born when people collectively rise up and demand better.
When studying Black history in the United States, there are hundreds of years of examples – dating back to colonization and slavery – that show us movements require commitment and education. It’s true that the civil rights movement of the sixties emerged because of the deplorable conditions Black people lived under in the United States from segregation, to not having the right to vote, state sanctioned harassment, lynchings, and so many more atrocities. But the groundwork for the Civil Rights Movement had been in the making for well over a hundred years through various forms of education. Over generations, Black people worked together to learn and pass down lessons on how to organize to use collective power to demand better. The fights Black ancestors organized around are still alive and well today.
Black leaders have taught and inspired countless movements – some of those whose roots lie in California – from the farmworkers movement to the LGBT+ movement. They have not only taught us how to cultivate, educate, and organize our power to gain rights but also that those rights earned always need to be defended in the future.
Throughout United States history, progress gained through movements has never been here to stay. Hard earned rights have been slowly undone, undermined, and/or unenforced – the recent constitutional denial of the right to abortion by the United States Supreme Court is a prime example of why we need to always stay engaged and defend the rights we have won.
Below are resources to learn more about the Black experience in America and think through how we can apply the knowledge gained through those experiences to our ongoing movements for equality:
- Anti-Defamation League, Civil Rights Movement: A summary of Civil Rights Movement legal battles and the policies that codified rights into law.
- Library of Congress, The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom: A summary of the major events that led up to the passage of The Civil Rights Act.
- Zinn Education Project, Teaching People’s History, Civil Rights Movement: “Resources from the Zinn Education Project website on the modern Civil Rights Movement. These include lessons, teaching guides, articles, books, films, and websites.”
- Be Antiracist with with Ibram X. Kendi: “ Be Antiracist imagines what an antiracist society might look like and how we all can play an active role in building one. Dr. Ibram X. Kendi is the author of How to Be an Antiracist, the book that spurred a nationwide conversation redefining what it means to be antiracist, and in this podcast, he guides listeners how they can identify and reject the racist systems hiding behind racial inequity and injustice. Alongside notable guests, Dr. Kendi continues his journey towards building a just and equitable world and proposes how we can all help create it with him.”
Coretta Scott King reminded us that the fight for civil rights must be fought for and won by each generation — and Courage California Institute is committed to doing just that. We are here to help build the next generation of movement leaders, community organizers, lawmakers, and elected officials here in California through education so that we are more prepared for our future fights for equal rights.