Review of Belinda Robnett’s "How Long? How long? African-American women in the Struggle of Civil Rights"

Literature Review, 2014

15 Pages, Grade: 2




Historical Background of the Civil Rights Movement

Feminism and Black Feminism

Review of ‘How long? How long?

Belinda Robnett’s sources and inspirations




The African American Civil Rights Movement was a series of protests in the United States South from approximately 1955 through 1968. The overall goal of the Civil Rights Movement was to achieve racial equality before the law. Protest tactics were, overall, acts of civil disobedience. Rarely were they ever intended to be violent. From sit-ins to boycotts to marches, the activists involved in the Civil Rights Movement were vigilant and dedicated to the cause without being aggressive. While African-American men seemed to be the leaders in this epic movement, African-American women played a huge role behind the scenes and in the protests.

When discussing the American Civil Rights Movement, the names that seem to come up are those of prominent black men. While these men did enormous amounts of good during this movement, there are many women who seem to be poorly represented or credited. The number of writings about women in the struggle for civil rights movement continues to grow; new studies about the participation of black women appear. Through a comparative and analytical approach to the varieties of women's activism and the ways in which race, class, gender, and culture influence the Civil Rights movement, sociologist Belinda Robnett successfully attempts to provide an account of the participation of African American women in the movement.

In the fallowing paper I will first provide a historical background of the Civil Rights movement. Due to the fact that the book under study is a study of African- American women in the struggle for Civil Rights I will also provide a brief review of feminism and black feminism. From here on I will make a review of the book with a special attention to chapter Two and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Finally I will discuss Belinda Robnett’s sources and the approaches and methods she uses to write her book.

Historical Background of the Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights movement is the title given to the effort to gain greater social, political and economic equality for black Americans which, it has been argued, emerged in its most recognisable form during the 1950s. To many, the Civil Rights movement was one of the greatest reform impulses of the twentieth century and its many victories have included such things as the Supreme Court decision in 1954 which declared segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional, the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-1956, the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting rights act of 1965 (White, 1991, p.9)2.In order to fully understand the Civil Rights Movement, one needs to go back to its origin. Most people believe that Rosa Parks3 began the whole civil rights movement. As Robnett writes in her work, Mrs. Parks ‘had been an active member of the NAACP for fifteen years at the time , she refused to relinquish her seat to a White men and had been thrown off the bus and arrested(1955).’(Robnett, page 57)

Further Robnett explains that ‘This single act was to set in motion the heightened period of civil rights movement’ (Robnett, page 58). According to the above quote we understand that she did in fact propel the Civil Rights movement to unprecedented heights but, we should not forget that its origin began in 1954 with Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka4.

Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka was the cornerstone for change in American History as a whole. Before that, there was Plessy vs. Ferguson in 1896 that argued by declaring that state laws establish separate public schools for black and white students denied black children equal educational opportunity (Separate but equal doctrine )

There were also other events and case to provoke the movement such as the horrible death of Emmett Till in 1955, in which the main suspects were acquitted of beating, shooting, and throwing the fourteen year old African American boy in the Tallahatchie River, for “whistling at a white woman”5. In order to move into the future, one must let go of the past, and many people were not eager to abandon the beliefs that had been engrained in them since birth. Racial discrimination was present nationwide but the outrageous violence of African Americans in southern states became known as Jim Crow Laws6. Jim Crow Laws made it impossible for African Americans to be equals. It prohibited Blacks from marrying Caucasians, owning restaurants that served people of other races, drinking out of the same water fountain as whites, virtually separating races on every imaginable plane. According to these laws one understands that they are one of the causes for the deterioration of Society making once race feel inferior to another.

To conclude I may say that the whole purpose of the Civil Rights movement was to abandon this way of thinking and take a journey into the unknown, which was unity. Although historically Jim Crow Laws were abolished in the 1970’s for good, the ideas, events, and feelings that emerged from this unfair practice of this law still haunted the south many years after.


2 White, J. (1991) Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement in America (British Association for American Studies)

3 Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (February 4, 1913 - October 24, 2005) was an African-American civil rights activist, whom the United States Congress called "the first lady of civil rights" and "the mother of the freedom movement’

4 Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional.

5 time and hour of the visit 04:01:2014, 15H59min.

6, time and date of the visit 04:01: 2014, 16h 30 min

Excerpt out of 15 pages


Review of Belinda Robnett’s "How Long? How long? African-American women in the Struggle of Civil Rights"
Université Toulouse II - Le Mirail  (English Department)
English Studies: Litearture and Civilization
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Lora Cvetanova (Author), 2014, Review of Belinda Robnett’s "How Long? How long? African-American women in the Struggle of Civil Rights", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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