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From the White House: Honoring The Women of the Civil Rights Movement

The subject of the President’s Weekly Address was covered earlier in the week. Please enjoy this post of First Lady Michelle Obama celebrating Black History Month. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.


From the White HouseHonoring the Women of the Civil Rights Movement, Both Past and Present

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at “Celebrating Women of the Movement,” an event honoring Black History Month, in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 20, 2015. The First Lady introduces moderator Vanessa De Luca, Editor-in-Chief of Essence magazine and the panel of intergenerational women who have played a pivotal role in the civil rights movement – both past and present.

In 1957, Carlotta Walls, a 14-year-old African American girl living in Little Rock, Arkansas, elected to attend Little Rock Central High School. One of the nine students who desegregated the school, Carlotta was subjected to constant bullying, physical abuse, and violent attacks — her parents’ home was bombed in February of 1960. Shortly after, she earned her high school diploma.

In 1961, Charlayne Hunter became the first African American woman to attend the University of Georgia. Enduring everyday bigotry and racial slurs, and bottles and bricks thrown at her windows, Charlayne went on to get her degree — which has since propelled her to a successful career as a journalist with NPR, PBS, CNN, and the New York Times.

These are just two of the influential women that took part in a special panel discussion this afternoon at the White House in celebration of Black History Month.

Moderated by Essence Editor-in-Chief Vanessa De Luca, the panel brought together the following five women who have played critical roles in America’s progress on civil rights:

   Carlotta Walls LaNier, youngest member of the Little Rock Nine

   Charlayne Hunter-Gault, activist and journalist

   Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

   Janaye Ingram, National Executive Director, National Action Network

   Chanelle Hardy, Senior Vice President for Policy, National Urban League

As First Lady Michelle Obama said in her introductory remarks, what connects each of these panelists’ stories is a “hunger for and belief in the power of education.”

   At some point in their journeys, these women understood that if they were going to reach their potential — if they were going to make a difference not just for themselves but for this country — they would have to get a good education.

   Every woman on this stage graduated from college. And some of them did it at tremendous risk to themselves and to their families.

“Thanks to their sacrifice,” she said, “there are no angry mobs gathering outside our schools. Nobody needs a military escort to get to class.” But the First Lady also explained that too many of our children still face struggles related to education, and detailed the work that remains:

   Too many of our young people attend crumbling schools that don’t have the technology, or the college prep classes, or the college counseling they need to complete their education past high school. And too many of our young people can’t even envision a better future for themselves — or if they do, they aren’t connecting their dreams to the education they’ll need.

   So today, too many of the opportunities that these women fought for are going unrealized.

“In the end,” she said, “if we really want to solve issues like mass incarceration, poverty, racial profiling, voting rights, and the kinds of challenges that shocked so many of us over the past year, then we simply cannot afford to lose out on the potential of even one young person. We cannot allow even one more young person to fall through the cracks.”

Bolding added.



  1. Diana in NoVa

    My heart leaped when I saw the name Carlotta Walls. Having lived through the Little Rock School Integration Crisis of 1957 (it happened three blocks from our apartment), news of the later lives of the Little Rock Nine has always interested me. Charlayne Hunter is another name I recognize, although I didn’t live in the state where she integrated the college. Just remember her name from news reports.

    I wish all our young people could have a good education, but it’s more complex than just providing the right schools and teachers. What are the young to aspire to after they graduate? What jobs will be available to them? With constant outsourcing by greedy capitalists, there are few decent jobs to be had.

    I’d like to see a system in which companies sponsored a given school, offering summer jobs plus internships and scholarships so that young people could say to themselves, “I have an incentive to study hard, because I can get a good job with XYZ company after I graduate.”

    Oh, well, we can dream.

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