50 years after Dr. King's death, remembering the women who steered the movement

Photo Credit: Associated Press

For decades, it seems, Diane Nash has been asked about women’s role in the civil rights movement: what it was, why it hasn’t been more widely acknowledged, if she can describe her fellow organizers’ contributions. Ms. Nash, now 79, led students in sit-ins and helped coordinate the historic 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery. She has been portrayed in the film “Selma.” But when asked again recently by The New York Times about women’s contributions, she joked that the list was “brief.”

She went on to describe sit-ins, marches, Freedom Rides, and women working in organizations like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, of which Ms. Nash was a founding member. Women wrote pamphlets, Ms. Nash said. They made fliers. And they cooked — providing sustenance to protesters so that “the demonstrations could last longer,” she said. They also went to jail.

“Women developed strategy, taught in citizenship school, and in short, could and did perform all of the tasks necessary for the movement,” Ms. Nash said.

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