Final Celebration of #BlackHistory 2018

The Case of General Motors and 5 Black Women

In DeGraffenreid, five Black women brought suit against General Motors, alleging that the employer’s seniority system perpetuated the effects of past discrimination against Black women. Evidence adduced at trial revealed that General Motors simply did not hire Black women prior to 1964 and that all of the Black women hired after 1970 lost their jobs in a seniority-based layoff during a subsequent recession. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendant, rejecting the plaintiffs’ attempt to bring a suit not on behalf of Blacks or women, but specifically on behalf of Black women.

The court stated:

[P]laintiffs have failed’ to cite any decisions which have stated that Black women are a special class to be protected from discrimination. The Court’s own research has failed to disclose such a decision. The plaintiffs are clearly entitled to a remedy if they have been discriminated against. However, they should not be allowed to combine statutory remedies to create a new ‘super-remedy’ which would give them relief beyond what the drafters of the relevant statutes intended. Thus, this lawsuit must be examined to see if it states a cause of action for race discrimination, sex discrimination, or alternatively either, but not a combination of both.’

Although General Motors did not hire Black women prior to 1964, the court noted that “General Motors has hired female employees for a number of years prior to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”‘ Because General Motors did hire women-albeit white women-during the period that no Black women were hired, there was, in the court’s view, no sex discrimination that the seniority system could conceivably have perpetuated.

In Brittany Cooper’s book – Beyond Respectability – The Intellectual Thought of Race Women the historical process of elimination black woman has and is prevalent right before our very eyes.  She contends that black women’s participation in black liberation and feminist struggles has been either erased or framed around their roles as activists, rarely affording them the title of public intellectual despite their formidable theoretical outputs.  Incorporating the lives of

Fannie Barrier Williams – Fannie Barrier Williams was an educator, political activist, and women’s rights advocate who worked for advancement opportunities of African Americans. She called especially for social and educational reforms to improve the plight of black women in the Southern States of the U.S.

 

 

Mary Church Terrell – Mary Church Terrell, a writer, educator, and activist, co-founded the National Association of Colored Women and served as the organization’s first president. Known as “Mollie” to her family, Church who was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1863, lived a life of privilege due to the economic success of her parents, both former slaves.

 

 

Pauli Murray – In 1963 she became one of the first to criticize the sexism of the civil rights movement, in her speech “The Negro Woman and the Quest for Equality”.

 

 

 

 

 Toni Cade Bambara – Originally named Miltona Mirkin Cade at birth, Toni Cade Bambara was a civil rights activist, writer, teacher, and filmmaker.  She was born in 1939 in Harlem, New York.  At the age of six, she changed her name to Toni, and in 1970 she added the surname Bambara after finding it among her great-grandmother’s belongings.Bambara earned her BA in theater arts/English at Queens College in 1959, the same year she published “Sweet Town,” her first short story.  She was a social investigator from 1959 to 1961, and then worked in the psychiatry department of New York City’s Metropolitan Hospital.  During that time she studied in Florence as well as Paris, and earned an MA degree from City College of New York in 1964.  In 1965, she was hired to teach English at the City University of New York’s fledgling SEEK program for economically-disadvantaged students.  While there, she published short stories and became interested in film production.  From 1969 to 1974 she was an associate professor of English at Livingston College.

Source:  Beyond Respectability The Intellectual Thought Of Race Women, Black Past.org

Crenshaw, Kimberle () “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black  Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum: Vol. 1989: Iss. 1, Article 8.

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Margaret E. Morton – The Woman Who Would Not Step Aside

In these days of analyzing confusing elections and examining consequential figures in our past, people who cleared a path for our future stand out.  Margaret E. Morton had an extraordinary career in Connecticut politics that was sparked by her role in a Bridgeport neighborhood issue.  In the early 1970’s, she and other East End residents had asked the city to install a stop sign at the site of frequent accidents. Their request was rejected by the city, symptomatic of a growing chasm between white city leaders and East End’s black residents.The East Enders struck back, organizing to support black candidates for elected office. Margaret Morton ran as the Democratic Party’s candidate for a vacant seat in the state House of Representatives in 1972.  Her victory catapulted Morton into Connecticut history: she was the first African-American woman elected to the General Assembly.

In 1980, Margaret Morton decided to run for the state Senate after the incumbent, a well-known attorney, told her he wouldn’t seek re-election.  Margaret Morton later learned that the attorney intended to run and the Democratic Party machinery wanted her to withdraw her name for consideration.  “I was told, not asked, to step aside,” she said.

In her interpersonal dealings, Margaret Morton’s soft-spoken and gracious demeanor was in stark contrast to the wise-cracking, cigar chomping political operatives in Bridgeport.  Margaret Morton’s rivals may have underestimated her tenacity and organizational skills.  Among her supporters: newly deputized registrars of voters that enlisted people to register as voters affiliated with the Democratic Party.[1]  The voter registration drive paid off.  Margaret Morton beat the attorney by eight votes in a primary election, clearing the way for her to become the first African-American woman in Connecticut’s state Senate.  She subsequently rose to the rank of Deputy President Pro Tempore, a leadership role she held until she retired from the General Assembly in 1992.[2]

During her tenure, Margaret Morton championed causes to help impoverished people in the state’s urban areas.  She supported the adoption of a state income tax, for instance.  “People continue to talk about cutting spending. When you cut spending in the government you’re cutting people, which in return are services to people,” she said.[3]   In the Assembly, Morton chaired the committee on Human Rights and Opportunities and rose to the rank of Assistant House Majority Leader.  She oversaw the appointment of two African American judges during her years in office.  In total, she served four terms as a State Representative and six terms as a State Senator.

Margaret Morton was born in 1924 in Pocahontas, Virginia, to Aaron and Leona (Hurt) Woods.  She was raised in Bluefield, West Virginia and graduated from high school summa cum laude. [4]  After marrying James Morton in 1941, the couple moved to Bridgeport, then a vibrant manufacturing center.

The Mortons, who had four children, established and ran Morton’s Mortuary funeral home in Bridgeport’s East End.  All throughout her political career, she never forgot her roots.   Upon being named Deputy President Pro Tempore,  Morton made the following Statement:  My grandfather was the child of the master in the slaves and he yearned for education, he longed for education.  He went as far as he could go in school and he taught.  One thing he instilled in his children and he sent them all to normal school in those days which allowed them to become whatever they wanted to become and some were teachers and others entered into other professions. But I think that man is happy today, looking down to see his granddaughter in this position.  And my mother is happy and all of you know my mother and you know all about my mother.  I know she is happy today.  And you know what else?  I think she believes all the nice things these nice guys said about me.  Because she really believed in me. [5] Margaret Morton died March 10, 2012.  Fulfilling her grandfather’s dream, Margaret Morton had become a role model for future generations.  On the day that she would have turned 88, Bridgeport City Hall’s annex was renamed in her honor at a ceremony befitting a trailblazer.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1984/06/24/flip-side-of-voter-drives-can-be-polarized-parties/bb514a93-8dbc-4856-8429-5e307f06ebff/

[2] http://www.ct.gov/sots/lib/sots/registermanual/2012dedicationweb.pdf

 [3] “Weicker Gets His Income Tax, But Citizens Fight It,” The Christian Science Monitor,  08 Oct 1991.

[4] http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/ctpost/obituary.aspx?pid=156477743

[5] Senate Session Transcript 02/14/90 [http://search.cga.state.ct.us/dtsearch.asp?cmd=getdoc&DocId=7395&Index=I%3A%5Czindex%5C1990&HitCount=0&hits=&hc=0&req=&Item=425]

 

Source:  By Mary Witkowski – Bridgeport Public Library