The Nineteenth Amendment gave women in the United States the legal right to vote 100 years ago, but it would be another 45 years until women of color could truly to exercise this right. During women's history month, museums, parks and other facilities in North Carolina are commemorating everything the amendment did and didn't accomplish.
The initiative, called "She Changed the World: North Carolina Women Breaking Barriers," is a statewide effort to host exhibits and events throughout March to honor women's history.
As a part of this initiative, the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh is holding the exhibit "You Have To Start A Thing." The exhibit opens March 6 and focuses on sharing the stories of those who both fought for women’s suffrage and those who rallied against it.
RaeLana Poteat is the curator of the exhibit.
“What I am most proud of with the exhibit is that I feel like a lot of this history — particularly with the women who fought for the right to vote in North Carolina — has just faded out in the general memory," she said. “As a team for the exhibit, one of the things we were very happy about was bringing some of these stories back into the state consciousness of people who fought for, and interestingly, the people that fought against it, and why they fought against it.”
She said the exhibit was originally thought up as a part of the statewide initiative, but that it hoped to highlight the motivations behind anti-suffragists, many of which she says were hesitant to support the amendment because it would expand voting rights to communities of color.
However, she said the amendment’s reach did not historically extend to individuals of color.
“The short answer is that we are doing it because it’s the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment and of women, which in North Carolina would have meant white women, getting the right to vote," Poteat said.
Poteat said because of Jim Crow, most women of color did not truly get the right to vote until 1965 with the passage of the Voting Rights Act.