The 19th Amendment turns 100: UB expert on the fight for women’s suffrage

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920 and adopted on Aug. 26, 1920 after a long struggle that still holds relevance today

Release Date: August 12, 2020

Portrait of Lillian S. Williams.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, University at Buffalo expert Lillian S. Williams shared thoughts on the history of women’s suffrage.

Lillian S. Williams, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Transnational Studies, UB College of Arts and Sciences

Williams is an expert on U.S. social and urban history, and much of her research has sought to preserve the history of women and African American people. She can discuss the history of the 19th Amendment and the advocacy and achievements of Black suffragists, who confronted both racism and sexism in their fight for the vote.

“For African American women, suffrage was important because it would allow them to address educational issues that their communities faced,” Williams says. “It would allow them to promote legislation to address penal reform and the atrocities that were perpetrated against African Americans.”

Williams notes that Mary Burnett Talbert of Buffalo (1866-1923) was among nationally known reformers who advocated for women’s suffrage, civil rights and human rights, among other causes. Williams shared a quote from an essay Talbert wrote for “Votes for Women: A Symposium by Leading Thinkers of Colored America” in the August 1915 issue of The Crisis, the magazine of the NAACP:  

“It should not be necessary to struggle forever against popular prejudice, and with us as colored women, this struggle becomes two-fold, first, because we are women and second, because we are colored women,” Talbert wrote. “Although some resistance is experienced in portions of our country against the ballot for women, because colored women will be included, I firmly believe that enlightened men, are now numerous enough everywhere to encourage this just privilege of the ballot for women, ignoring prejudice of all kinds.”

Read about Williams’ research on Talbert:

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