From Ella Baker to Septima Clark, history is rife with examples of Black women whose tremendous legacies in the world of political organizing are accompanied by a relative absence in the dominant narratives we tell ourselves about the times in which they lived. They say that fortune favors the bold; we might also observe that history favors the men.
And yet, as we continue to navigate the daily assaults against humanity lobbed at us by an authoritarian presidential administration, history may be on our side—if we choose to take a second look. One of the enduring gifts of the movement for Black lives is a renewed interest in another vision of leadership, starkly divergent from the one that prevailed in our elementary school history textbooks.
What if, after all, social transformation wasn’t about waiting for a designated [male, straight, cis, nondisabled] hero to come along and rescue us? What if regular people had the tools at our disposal to work collectively toward justice? As it turns out, those stories have been waiting for us all along, latent beneath the easier and more familiar tale of charismatic messiahs acting all alone. And they have much to teach us.