Black wom­en have always been on the front lines of the fight for civil rights, exhibit­ing strength and grace under pres­sure. Here are 5 icon­ic images of black wom­en star­ing down vio­lence when con­front­ed with it.

Who: Tess Asplund
Where: Cen­tral Swe­den
When: May 1, 2016
What: Neo-Nazi march 

Asplund par­tic­i­pat­ed in a protest of 300 uni­formed Neo-Nazis who marched through Bor­länge, cen­tral Swe­den, but was one of the only pro­tes­tors to actu­al­ly stand in the path of the march, hold­ing up a fist in defi­ance before she was pushed away. She told the Guardian

“It was an impulse. I was so angry, I just went out into the street,” Asplund told the Guardian. “I was think­ing: hell no, they can’t march here! I had this adren­a­line. No Nazi is going to march here, it’s not okay.”

Who: Eliz­a­beth Eck­ford
Where: Lit­tle Rock Cen­tral High School, Arkansas
When: Sep­tem­ber 4, 1957
What: The first day of inte­gra­tion at Lit­tle Rock Cen­tral High School. Eck­ford was one of 9 African Amer­i­can stu­dents to inte­grate the school.

The plan was for 15-year-old Eck­ford and 8 oth­er African Amer­i­can stu­dents to come to school with their par­ents and enter through the back. How­ev­er the Eck­fords did not have a tele­phone and did not receive the mes­sage. Eliz­a­beth rode the bus to school by her­self and walked up to the school unac­com­pa­nied, eyes hid­den by sun­glass­es. As she walked hun­dreds of men, wom­en and stu­dents taunt­ed her and chant­ed ‘2, 4, 6, 8. We ain’t gonna inte­grate.’ When Eck­ford tried to enter the school she was blocked by an armed guard with a bay­o­net and had to return to the bus stop, pur­sued by the mob threat­en­ing to lynch her. Eck­ford recalled the scene in Steven Kasher’s The Civil Rights Move­ment: A Pho­to­graph­ic His­to­ry.

“I stood look­ing at the school— it looked so big! Just then the guards let some white stu­dents through. The crowd was qui­et. I guess they were wait­ing to see what was going to hap­pen. When I was able to steady my knees, I walked up to the guard who had let the white stu­dents in. He didn’t move. When I tried to squeeze past him, he raised his bay­o­net and then the oth­er guards moved in and they raised their bay­o­nets. They glared at me with a mean look and I was very fright­ened and didn’t know what to do. I turned around and the crowd came toward me. They moved closer and closer. Some­body start­ed yelling, “Drag her over this tree! Let’s take care of that nig­ger!’”

Weeks lat­er Eck­ford and the oth­er inte­gra­tionist stu­dents final­ly gained entrance to the school, although she was sub­ject­ed to reg­u­lar vio­lence, includ­ing being pushed down a flight of stairs. The strength it took for her to walk up to that school unac­com­pa­nied is unimag­in­able.

Who: An unnamed Ethiopi­an Jew­ish wom­an
Where: Tel Aviv, Israel
When: June 22, 2015
What: Anti-police bru­tal­i­ty march

In the sum­mer of 2015 Ethiopi­an Jews took to the streets of Israel to protest police bru­tal­i­ty and racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, sparked in part by the beat­ing of Ethiopi­an-Israel sol­dier Damas Fekade by two Israeli police offi­cers. Pho­tog­ra­phers caught this wom­an, who showed no fear while star­ing down an Israeli cop.

Who: Ieshia Evans
Where: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
When: July 9, 2016
What: Black Lives Mat­ter protest fol­low­ing the shoot­ing death of Alton Ster­ling

A Penn­syl­va­nia moth­er who had nev­er protest­ed before, Evans felt moved to dri­ve South and par­tic­i­pate in the Black Lives Mat­ter protests even though police were crack­ing down with exces­sive force. Evans and oth­ers blocked the motor­way in front of the police depart­ment and was instruct­ed to move. She did not, instead slow­ly walk­ing towards the offi­cers and prepar­ing to be arrest­ed.

Who: Glo­ria Richard­son
Where: Cam­bridge, Mary­land
When: Sum­mer 1963
What: Riots for socio-eco­nom­ic and racial equal­i­ty

Richard­son was a house­wife turned civil rights lead­er who did not believe in non-vio­lence. Racial ten­sions in her home­town of Cam­bridge Mary­land sim­mered after Richard­son sub­mit­ted a list of demands for eco­nom­ic and social deseg­re­ga­tion to the may­or. But they boiled over into vio­lence when white cops assault­ed a group of black teens. Richard­son encour­aged black town res­i­dents to fight back when they were attacked, spark­ing an all-out war. Maryland’s gov­er­nor brought in the Nation­al Guard, which occu­pied the town for sev­er­al months. In this pic­ture Richard­son is seen push­ing away a bay­o­net point­ed at her by a Nation­al Guards­men.

Bonus…

And appar­ent­ly this is a pho­to­shopped pic­ture… but it is still every­thing.

No doubt there are count­less more images of black women’s resolve when con­front­ed with racial vio­lence. And while the wom­en in the­se pho­tographs were phys­i­cal­ly unharmed, it is impor­tant to remem­ber that black wom­en often suf­fered phys­i­cal con­se­quences for their defi­ance. This pho­tograph, tak­en by civil rights doc­u­men­tar­i­an Charles Moore, shows a black wom­an about to be beat­en with a bat, while anoth­er is punched about the head, dur­ing the non-vio­lent protests of Mont­gomery Alaba­ma in 1960.

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­lis­te, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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13 Comments on "5 Iconic Images of Black Women Saying ‘Naw’ In the Face of Racial Violence"

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CSS

Divide and Rule men­tal­i­ty does not work. We need to be togeth­er Black Men and Wom­en, we are both in the same Slave Boat.

Nefertari

If we raise our sons cor­rect­ly, they will be stand­ing beside us as we fight for what is right. 

Bet­ter yet, they will say “Go sit down Mama. Its time I start to fight for you”

CeeCee
I whole­heart­ed­ly dis­agree. It is pre­cise­ly because there are blacks who will not or can not fight that black wom­en must remain on the front lines. We could take a break from the front lines to rear, guide, love and teach our sons and then may­be, they’ll join on us on the front lines. But please, as the young folks love to say, don’t get it twist­ed; there are tens of thou­sands of black men on the front lines of protests, cam­paign­ing for office, and fight­ing not only for the rights of black wom­en but the rights of the oppressed… Read more »
Cem

Quick cor­rec­tion, Eck­ford was in Lit­tle Rock, Arkansas. Good post!

R Nelson
It is dis­en­chant­i­ng and demor­al­iz­ing to know that our coun­try, which espous­es such high and admirable ide­als, was found­ed in part on the eco­nom­i­cal­ly con­ve­nient real­i­ty of peo­ple own­ing peo­ple. The pathet­ic “men” who dress up in SWAT gear to look “man­ly” and gang up on a wisp of a wom­an, the ugly faces of the “cream of the white race” threat­en­ing a school­girl and pre­tend­ing to be “Christians”–they’re dis­gust­ing and enrag­ing to this North­ern white geezer. We real­ize that it’s not just here–this goes on in var­i­ous forms all over the world–but we are sup­posed to be the city… Read more »
Michelle

So well said. Every word.

Tiffany C Brown

And anoth­er that’s always moved me:
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Tiey

Hiya! That pic­ture is a still from the film “Cristo Rey”.

laaa

Its nice, but Black Wom­en need to stop putting them­selves in the front lines while black males are behind us and not sup­port us as humans.

Chocolate chip

Exactly.#BBM

Nina

I agree.

TWA4now

It is great to see the­se wom­en stand up again­st such odds! Togeth­er we win!

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