Susan B. Anthony's Grave Celebrated Despite Her Racist Legacy

Hundreds are placing their "I voted" stickers on the headstone of suffragette Susan B. Anthony but the grave of a black woman deserves that recognition.

Susan B. Anthony's headstone has been inundated with visitors and "I Voted" stickers as hundreds visited her burial site in honor of her contribution to women's right to vote. This achievement is made even more significant as people vote for Hillary Clinton to become the first female president of the United States.

Another name, however, has been trending on Twitter as a hidden and unpleasant aspect of Anthony's suffrage movement is brought to light. Ida B. Wells, a black woman, journalist, and suffragette is not receiving anywhere near the same amount of attention, even though she had to fight against Anthony and the other white suffragettes to achieve voting rights for black women.

"I will cut off this right arm of mine," Anthony stated, "before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman." Anthony and other white suffragettes used white supremacy as a tool to legitimize their right to vote. White suffragettes used the 15th Amendment, which permitted black men to vote, as a weapon against women of color.

Anna Howard Shaw, a contemporary of Anthony, famously said, "You did not wait for woman suffrage but disenfranchised both your black and white women thus making them politically equal. You have put the ballot in the hands of your black men, thus making them political superiors of white women." Francis E. Willard even used the claim that white women were "menaced" by black men to promote her agenda for temperance and women's suffrage.

At the same time, Ida B. Wells, a former slave, launched a historic anti-lynching crusade that took her to the White House and across the Atlantic to England. She was a brave and impassioned journalist and newspaper owner who constantly faced personal harm as an outspoken, political black woman. Wells was a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Association of Colored Women. Wells championed the rights of all women, regardless of race.

Black women like Wells had to struggle for the right to vote against society at large as well as the white women who used them as a stepping stool to achieve their own voting rights. In many cases, white women like Anthony, Shaw, and Willard had been abolitionists, fighting for an end to slavery, and abruptly turned their backs on their sisters of color to promote their own agendas.

Although the 19th Amendment would legally give all women, black or white, the right to vote, vigilantes and lawmakers at the state level effectively blocked black women from voting within the decade. It would take the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s—40 years after white women achieved suffrage— to truly get black women the vote.

Women's suffrage has always been white-washed, but the fact that people are still celebrating Anthony over black women like Wells should be a wake-up call for modern-day feminists. The reality that women's suffrage was forged at the expense of women of color should remind us that modern feminism must include and celebrate women of color, or risk falling prey to the same white supremacist rhetoric of the women who came before us.

Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters

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