The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Dr. Merline Pitre discusses struggles black women faced during Jim Crow

Taylor Henry/The Daily Campus

(Taylor Henry/The Daily Campus)

With women’s history month wrapping up this week, Dr. Merline Pitre, the former dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Behavioral Sciences at Texas Southern University, discussed the struggles black women faced during Jim Crow in an ethnic studies lecture Monday in the Hughes-Trigg Theater.

Pitre, a well-known historian, has written several books including “In Struggle against Jim Crow: Lulu B. White and the NAACP, 1900-1957.”

Speaking to a crowd of approximately 30 people, Pitre illustrated the difficulties Lulu B. White faced during the era of segregation and disfranchisement in Texas in the ’40s and ’50s.

Dealing with constant gender and race oppression, White played a significant role in the struggle for freedom by protesting tradition and engaging in mixed groups and gender-specific groups in an effort to liberate the black community from second-class citizenship.

“Her participation in community liberation struggles was a means of empowerment for her as an individual, a means of defining the ‘self’ and of redefining her womanhood during the era of Jim Crow,” Pitre said.

Unlike many African Americans who accepted separate but equal laws, White wanted complete integration.

“Her goal was to be an agent of change,” Pitre said.

After graduating from college, White achieved her goal as she was elected as the executive secretary of the NAACP.

White traveled throughout Texas, encouraging African Americans to stand up to whites. During Jim Crow, only white males were given voting rights in the democratic primary. White challenged African Americans to take action against the law.

“She felt that if blacks wanted to partake in white democratic primaries, then they should,” Pitre said. “She urged blacks to take a great role in politics – to vote and seek office.”

White didn’t let being a woman – or being black – stand in her way. Even when white managers refused to see her or slammed doors in her face, she continued to push herself, as well as other black women, to seek equal opportunities in Texas.

“She pressured white businessmen to employ blacks,” Pitre said.

At a time when race defined a person more than gender, White worked to eliminate the day-to-day political and economical pressures African Americans, especially black women, faced.

“She had the courage to challenge the institutions and the ugly realizations of segregation,” Pitre said.  

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