June 5, 2020
Dear Suffrage100MA Community,
Ben Crump, Attorney for the family of George Floyd, spoke before crowds the other day and asked everyone to “just take a breath.” He asked that we just take a breath for George Floyd, and he went on to name one by one by one many of the innumerable Black and Brown people who have lost their lives in just the past few years as a result of police violence. Attorney Crump also asked that we take a breath for our country and heal. We are heartbroken and have been reflecting on anti-blackness and our work as Suffrage100MA to commemorate the suffrage movement. *
We are painfully aware that the suffrage movement over its 72+ year history included much anti-blackness despite the origins of the movement that began with dedicated abolitionists who became suffragists. African American suffragists all over the country worked tirelessly for the 19th Amendment, yet Jim Crow laws in the South prevented African American women and men from voting, and we aim to center their stories as we commemorate the 19th Amendment.
Black Lives Matter. And our goal is to create a unified and inclusive commemoration so everyone learns all aspects of suffrage history. We hope that amplifying all of these stories will inspire everyone – men included – to appreciate and exercise their right to vote.
People of color have been continually reminding White people that they need to ‘do the work’ before they come to the table to work together. Doing the work means acknowledging White privilege, learning the history of racism in our country and working in solidarity with people of color to create an equitable society. This starts with educating ourselves and the work discussed above is part of our effort to do so. Our goal is to increase representation of diverse communities with respect to all aspects of our organization.
The horrific murder of George Floyd has reminded this country of the similar murders of Black and Brown people that have occurred without repercussions, accountability or justice. Current protests against police brutality and our country’s history of systemic racism further the legacy of the abolition, suffrage and civil rights movements which fought to create a just society.
As we relook at our own work we see the need for including more history, particularly about more people of color and are actively working to research and share these stories and invite you to join us. While we have more work to do, visit our resources page on our website to learn more about African American suffragists, read our May Newsletter The Suffragist highlighting Asian American suffragists, and follow our regular social media posts highlighting many women of color.
On behalf of the Suffrage100MA Board of Directors,
Founder & President, Suffrage100MA
*See: NY Times Op-Ed , June 4, 2020, “Opinion: Call It What It Is: Anti-Blackness” by Dr. kihana miraya ross)