The Case of General Motors and 5 Black Women
In DeGraffenreid, five Black women brought suit against General Motors, alleging that the employer’s seniority system perpetuated the effects of past discrimination against Black women. Evidence adduced at trial revealed that General Motors simply did not hire Black women prior to 1964 and that all of the Black women hired after 1970 lost their jobs in a seniority-based layoff during a subsequent recession. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendant, rejecting the plaintiffs’ attempt to bring a suit not on behalf of Blacks or women, but specifically on behalf of Black women.
The court stated:
[P]laintiffs have failed’ to cite any decisions which have stated that Black women are a special class to be protected from discrimination. The Court’s own research has failed to disclose such a decision. The plaintiffs are clearly entitled to a remedy if they have been discriminated against. However, they should not be allowed to combine statutory remedies to create a new ‘super-remedy’ which would give them relief beyond what the drafters of the relevant statutes intended. Thus, this lawsuit must be examined to see if it states a cause of action for race discrimination, sex discrimination, or alternatively either, but not a combination of both.’
Although General Motors did not hire Black women prior to 1964, the court noted that “General Motors has hired … female employees for a number of years prior to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”‘ Because General Motors did hire women-albeit white women-during the period that no Black women were hired, there was, in the court’s view, no sex discrimination that the seniority system could conceivably have perpetuated.
In Brittany Cooper’s book – Beyond Respectability – The Intellectual Thought of Race Women the historical process of elimination black woman has and is prevalent right before our very eyes. She contends that black women’s participation in black liberation and feminist struggles has been either erased or framed around their roles as activists, rarely affording them the title of public intellectual despite their formidable theoretical outputs. Incorporating the lives of
Fannie Barrier Williams – Fannie Barrier Williams was an educator, political activist, and women’s rights advocate who worked for advancement opportunities of African Americans. She called especially for social and educational reforms to improve the plight of black women in the Southern States of the U.S.
Mary Church Terrell – Mary Church Terrell, a writer, educator, and activist, co-founded the National Association of Colored Women and served as the organization’s first president. Known as “Mollie” to her family, Church who was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1863, lived a life of privilege due to the economic success of her parents, both former slaves.
Pauli Murray – In 1963 she became one of the first to criticize the sexism of the civil rights movement, in her speech “The Negro Woman and the Quest for Equality”.
Toni Cade Bambara – Originally named Miltona Mirkin Cade at birth, Toni Cade Bambara was a civil rights activist, writer, teacher, and filmmaker. She was born in 1939 in Harlem, New York. At the age of six, she changed her name to Toni, and in 1970 she added the surname Bambara after finding it among her great-grandmother’s belongings.Bambara earned her BA in theater arts/English at Queens College in 1959, the same year she published “Sweet Town,” her first short story. She was a social investigator from 1959 to 1961, and then worked in the psychiatry department of New York City’s Metropolitan Hospital. During that time she studied in Florence as well as Paris, and earned an MA degree from City College of New York in 1964. In 1965, she was hired to teach English at the City University of New York’s fledgling SEEK program for economically-disadvantaged students. While there, she published short stories and became interested in film production. From 1969 to 1974 she was an associate professor of English at Livingston College.
Source: Beyond Respectability The Intellectual Thought Of Race Women, Black Past.org
Crenshaw, Kimberle () “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum: Vol. 1989: Iss. 1, Article 8.