Black women have played a central role in the civil rights battles of the 1960s, risking their lives and livelihoods as much as the men whose names have become familiar, like Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall and Medgar Evers. Despite the accomplishments of such women, as Diane Nash, Johnnie Carr and Daisy Bates, few people know their names. Even though their contribution to the civil rights movement was extremely valuable these women have been put in a class of unacknowledged champions and leaders
Black women used their leadership skills to organize and empower their community during the civil rights movement to develop strategy and assemble resources. However, their experiences and roles as leaders have been ignored, overlooked or considered inconsequential in comparison to white women or black men. Barnett notes that many risked their jobs, lives and reputations in initiating and sustaining the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56 which propelled King into the national spotlight.
Barnett concludes, from her study of archival data and from personal interviews with more than 35 black women activists that the blood, sweat and tears that they shed, generated protests and activism by many other disadvantaged groups-women, farm workers, gays and lesbians, the handicapped, welfare rights activists-all of whom have been in profound ways the beneficiaries of the civil rights movement.