The women who changed black history

‘Women have been the backbone of the whole Civil Rights movement,’ said Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King, in 1966. Her husband may have made the most memorable speeches. But in the forefront of the struggle, women worked and campaigned for equality with no less courage. For this year’s UK Black History Month, we are remembering their efforts.

All images © the photographer. Women and the Civil Rights Movement — Chrysler Museum of Art, June 14 to October 30 2016.

Supporters of the civil rights movement congratulate Dr Martin Luther King as he drives through Baltimore in 1964. He had just won the Nobel Peace Prize for his commitment to non-violent protest. © Leonard Freed
Demonstrators are attacked with water cannon in 1963. Photos ‘essentially went viral’ and ‘changed history almost overnight,’ says the exhibition’s curator Alex Mann. ‘They shocked the world and changed hearts.’ © Charles Moore
A 17-year-old woman in Alabama, 1966. She and her family were evicted from a plantation after registering to vote. She went into labour days later; the white hospital turned her away. She bled to death. © Charmian Sproule Reading
A young woman named Helen Ann Smith at Harlem House on Beale Street in Memphis. Harlem House was a chain restaurant which welcomed black customers — but its sister chain, Toddle House, was strictly segregated. © Ernest C. Withers
A group of teenagers protest outside a swimming pool on a hot summer day in Cairo, Illinois in 1962. The public pool had been ‘changed into a private pool in order to remain segregated,’ says the photographer. © Danny Lyon
In Georgia in 1963, a group of teenagers were arrested for protesting and held for days without charge. ‘There were no beds, no mattresses, no blankets, pillows, no sheets,’ recalled Henrietta Fuller. She was 13. © Danny Lyon
On Sunday Septemer 15 1963, a church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan. Four young girls were killed. Here, members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee stand outside the funeral. © Danny Lyon
Five years later, another funeral: that of Martin Luther King, assassinated on April 4, 1968. Here, three of his four children are viewing his body at Sisters’ Chapel, Spellman College, Atlanta. © Benedict J. Fernandez
At Dr King’s funeral, a woman named Annell Ponder stands in the rain. In 1963, she had been ‘arrested, beaten, and thrown in jail’ for teaching activists how to train local people to register to vote in Mississippi. © Builder Levy
In June 1966 James Meredith began to walk from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi to protest against racism. He was shot on the second day. Thousands arrived in Mississippi to complete the journey in his name. © Maria Varela
Genora Covington was just 16 years old when she stood outside a courthouse in Monroe, North Carolina to protest against segregation at public swimming pools. She and others were attacked by a white mob later that day. © Declan Haun