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Julianne Malveaux

Julianne Malveaux

(NNPA)—Some words seem rarely mentioned in this highly toxic political season.  We’ve heard about bombs and walls, but very little about peace. One is almost tempted, when some of the candidates are speaking, to burst into song—give peace a chance. In this Women’s History Month, it makes sense to reflect on women and the peace movement, and especially on the African American women who have been peace activists and have played a significant role in this movement.

The Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom was founded in 1915 in the midst of World War I.  Its first chair, Hull House’s Jane Addams, cared deeply about world disarmament.  Early on, though, there were criticisms of WILPF and the peace movement because African American were too often invisible.    In a book poignantly titled, No Peace Without Freedom, Race and WILPF, Joyce Blackwell writes about tensions within the path breaking peace organization.  In a similar book, “A Band of Noble Women:  Racial Politics in the Women’s Peace Movement,” Melinda Plastas writes that African American women combined the effects of race, gender and war, and “demanded a place for Black women in the international peace movement.

Mary Church Terrell was involved in WILPF almost from its outset, serving on its board for a time.  The D.C. doyenne, who was one of the first African American women to earn a college degree, was involved in the civil rights and social justice movements.

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