All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Tina Kempin Reuter

Advisory Committee Members

Kathryn Morgan

Douglas Fry

Peter Verbeek

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2019

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

ABSTRACT The historical conceptualization of social movements on the space-time continuum is often androcentric. Heavy reliance on male leadership perspectives negates the female point of view and creates what Marable labels an “idealized interpretation” that skirts the actual relationship between individuals and the evolution of history. This research is the deliberate recovery of the purposefully omitted while elucidating the intricacies of the leadership of Black women. It foregrounds and clarifies the leadership narratives of Black women who navigated the gendered and racialized spaces of their churches and communities in the struggle for civil and human rights during the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Alabama in 1950-60s and as creators of peace during the Mass Action for Peace in Monrovia, Liberia in 2003-2005. Framed within the discipline of cultural anthropology, this cultural comparison moors upon feminist, critical race, and social movement theories for its analysis. It employs 19 semi-structured interviews of Birmingham foot soldiers and Liberian Mass Action for Peace warriors and archival research to bring the marginalized voices of women into the center. Coding expounds on the two forms of resistance within the lives of Black women: the individual lived experience and group membership in a sisterhood. It also exposes two fundamental aspects for a study of leadership: the separate but proximal relationships that race and gender have to it and the perception that the individual may have about leadership as a concept or a position. This project and its results are multilayered. First, it establishes that the Civil Rights movement in Birmingham, like the Liberian Mass Action for Peace, began as a human rights movement initiated by Black women. Second, it challenges the notion of the African-American church as the agency-laden vehicle of the movement. Third, it demands a recognition of the participation of women who happen to be White. Fourth, it reveals that leadership in Black women is filtered through the tension of the circumstances/situations, manifested in both the nature and nurture aspects of their person. Lastly, it concludes that the participation of Black women in social movements is fundamentally about the acknowledgment of their individual and collective humanity.

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