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How the Civil Rights Movement Influenced the Women's Liberation Movement

Powerful Essays
The civil rights movement influenced the women’s liberation movement in four key ways. First, it provided women with a model for success on how a successful movement should organize itself. Second, the civil rights movement broadened the concept of leadership to include women. Third, by fighting for equality, the civil rights movement changed the culture of advocacy and made social justice a legitimate cause. Finally, by eventually excluding women, the civil rights movement spurred women to organize their own movement. Without the civil rights movement, the women’s movement likely would never taken off on its own.

The civil rights movement (and the activists involved) gave women a model for success. The method the civil rights movement used demonstrated the power of solving social problems through collective action. By using lunch counter sit-ins, organizing into national networks like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and reaching into college campuses through the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the civil rights movement was able to bring together northerners and southerners, older and younger citizens and men and women to work for a single cause. Women took inspiration from this in the creation of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and other feminist groups – NOW even states in its Statement of Purpose that “there is no civil rights movement to speak for women, as there has been for Negroes and other victims of discrimination” and that NOW must take on that responsibility.

Similarly important was the role black women on an individual level played in offering a model for white women to follow. Because black men had a harder time finding employment, black women had a history of working ou...

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Lawson, Steven F., and Charles M. Payne. "This Transformation of People": An Interview with Bob Moses. Debating the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1968. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. 170-188. Print.

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Murray, Pauli. Women's Rights Are a Part of Human Rights. The American Women's Movement, 1945-2000 a Brief History with Documents. Comp. Nancy MacLean. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2009. 69-71. Print.

Hayden, Casey, and Mary King. Sex and Caste. The Movements of the New Left, 1950-1975. Comp. Van Gosse. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005. 99-103. Print.

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