/Lighting the Fires of Freedom’ shines a light on black women who fueled The Movement

Lighting the Fires of Freedom’ shines a light on black women who fueled The Movement

Janet Dewart Bell, author of Lighting the Fires of Freedom, spoke one-on-one with nine women to praise their courage and dedication to fighting racism in America. It gives the reader a personal connection with these women by telling their stories in their own words. As a reader, it felt like I was part of the conversation. Since the last year, I have been interested in the stories of the unsung heroes who have fought for the betterment of the world. I was so excited to find this book that I couldn’t resist reading it. Black women played a vital role in the Civil Rights Movement. This included Georgia Gilmore, who organized the raising of money for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Elaine R. Jones became the first woman president and counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Bell wrote that each woman was “engaged with actions across a variety of fields including journalism, law, education and journalism”, bringing awareness and fighting for Black rights, and making them leaders. Bell highlights the unique leadership abilities, personalities, and roles of each woman – Leah Chase and Dr. June Christmas, Aileen Hernández, Judy Richardson and Kathleen Cleaver, Gay McDougall and Gloria Richardson, and Myrlie evers-Williams. Bell describes the extraordinary leadership and roles played by these nine women, who went beyond fulfilling their duties. Myrlie Evers Williams was more than just the widow to civil rights leader Medgar Evers. She was assassinated in Jackson’s driveway in 1963. When Medgar became the field secretary in Mississippi, she was a paid secretary at the NAACP. She was a mother of three children and served as the director of communications at the Atlantic Richfield Company. She also became the first black woman elected to the Los Angeles Board of Public Works. Fearful of the movement, and not understanding it fully at first, Leah Chase, the owner of Dooky Chase in New Orleans, wasn’t initially convinced that her and her contemporaries were supportive. Her family’s restaurant was a safe place for black people. Activists could have meetings and enjoy gumbo or fried chicken. Chase’s restaurant helped to bring together black and white people in a time when this was illegal and beyond defiant. Aileen Hernandez was the first African American woman to be appointed to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in 1964. She resigned after the agency failed adequately to address sexual harassment. She was also the first African American to be elected president of the National Organization for Women, but she resigned because they elected all-white officers. Bell, who is a social justice activist, selected nine women to be the focus of her book. The thing I loved most about the book was the way that each woman named other women who were equally important. These women were important contributors politically, socially and intellectually to the movement. They knew that they could be in danger but they continued fighting for the greater good. Everyone should know their names. They answered the call to freedom by showing courage, dedication, and passion. They were strong and principled. Bell wrote, “They lit the fire and showed us the way.” Bell writes that all of these women served after the peak of civil rights involvement. This included the nation and the wider black community. Bell will be appearing on the panel “National Civil Rights History” at 1:30 pm in the state capitol room number 113. Randall Pinkston, Anne Farris Rosen are also on the panel.