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.


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


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”

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 »

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 »

So well said. Every word.

Tiffany C Brown

And anoth­er that’s always moved me:
comment image


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


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



I agree.


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