Fundamental differences experienced by the Black rights movement and the women’s rights movement soiled the collaboration between the two parties between the 1850s and 1860s. The feminists on one hand felt that the Republican Party had failed them and left them with feelings of betrayal. Therefore, they lacked the morale to join hands with the black suffragists since the group was of the opinion that working in collaboration with the Republican Party would pave a way for them to achieve their objectives. The disagreements were mostly revolving around the issue of suffrage where each side held different ideas and also acted in differing ways instead of being one and cultivating a common goal.
A number of abolitionists were advocating women rights before 1865 but during the reconstruction process, they changed their focus. They felt there was no longer the need to prioritize on women rights as more important matters needed to come first. For instance, the need to enfranchise black men preoccupied their minds since they saw it as an ideal strategy for punishing the ex-Confederates since the South would give its support to the Republican Party. Therefore, these abolitionists became of the opinion that even if they succeeded in achieving the women right to vote, the impact would not do as much in garnering support for the Republican Party. A trusted advocate for women rights, Frederick Douglas, went to the extent of shifting his focus from suffrage for women to suffrage for blacks. It was for this reason that some programs emerged such as the American and national woman suffrage associations.
More differences spoilt the unity between the two parties, for instance, they were not on the same page about why the women and black needed the right to vote. As a result, they could not establish a common period when both women and blacks would achieve these rights. For instance, the black rights advocates feared that the situation in the Reconstruction South would not experience a turnaround in the absence of the black suffrage.
On the other hand, the women suffragists held the opinion that they were the right people to impact positive morals and would thus not agree to the suggestion of enfranchising the black men before them. They referred to the black men as uneducated and thus ineffective in bringing about positive change. Some of the feminists that led the women’s suffrage had played active parts in fighting slavery in earlier years, for instance, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Therefore, they felt they would do even better in fighting for the rights of women following their experience in reform campaigns such as anti-prostitution.
The conflict between the two movements was evident in several forums, but the one in which the disagreement proved an open secret was during the AERA (American Equal Rights Association) proceedings. The initial purpose of this organization was to bring together the input and resources from both movements as an ideal approach towards realizing increased outcome. Since its inception in 1866, the body had met for additional three years on an annual basis. The meetings put pressure on the leaders from both the women and black suffrage to articulate their objectives as well as the approaches they would employ in achieving them. With time, the two sides could no longer deny the fact that they were no longer held together by common goals.
During the 1867 and 1868 convention meetings, it was clear to everyone that both sides were conflicting over the Republican Party as well as the urgency of addressing the issue of suffrage. When the duo met again in 1869 which marked their last meeting, it was clear that they were no longer willing to cooperate with each other and had even resulted to treating one another with disrespect. When the AERA collapsed, it became the symbol that signified the fallout between the two groups
It was evident that with such strong divisions, the two parties would never remain united since heated arguments emerged among them bringing about hostile feelings. For instance, during the 1869 AERA convention, the gap between these movements was evident with arguments characterizing their discussions. The female suffragists complained about the issue of racism on one hand but the black suffragists felt it was unnecessary to pursue women enfranchisement as they only cared about improving their own cause. In the long run, leaders from both parties that once worked together in harmony hoping to achieve common objectives turned disrespectful to each other’s opinions or actions. By the time the AERA was holding its final conference, the two parties had already experienced a complete breakup.
In conclusion, the women’s rights movement and the black rights movement became adversaries despite having shared many commonalities in the early 1800s. The differences emerged as a result of the movements nurturing and pursuing divergent goals and tactics more so on the concern of suffrage. In the long run, leaders from both movements could no longer agree with each other especially on the matters of political structure, specifically the Republican Party. They also disagreed on why and when women or blacks should receive their rights to vote and the preferred period for enfranchisement. These differences saw both groups lacking the acknowledgment for each other’s goals.
Foner, Eric. “Original Intent of the Fourteenth Amendment: A Conversation with Eric Foner, The.” Nev. LJ 6 (2005): 425.
Helm, Shaunda. “Without a Voice and Without a Following: The American Woman Suffrage Movement, 1865-1869.” Senior Research Projects. Paper 24, 2008. Available at: http://knowledge.e.southern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1024&context=senior_research