The Black Suffragist: Trailblazers of Social Justice, a film by Jennifer Rolle explores the contribution of African-American women within the suffrage movement. Rooted in the anti-slavery movement, women's suffrage began officially in 1848 at the New York Seneca Falls Convention. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, active abolitionists, led the charge for public awareness of a woman's right to vote.
African- American women were not fully embraced by many of the women's groups. They were also discouraged from participating in public demonstrations. Frustrated by this lack of inclusion, they turned to the church, the Black Press, and learning institutions to share their goals and agendas.
In 1869, conflict arose when the 15th Amendment passed, which granted the vote to black men but not to women. The suffrage movement then split into two groups, one supporting the new bill and the other rejecting it. Subsequent infighting ensued. Being neither male nor white, African-American women were left hanging in the balance.
In the end, it would take 70 years for Congress to pass the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. Regrettably, the right to vote would remain a struggle for many African-American women well after Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Pioneer feminists like Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Mary Church Terrell, and Nannie Helen Burroughs lit the way for activists like Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and Angela Davis.
Jennifer Rolle, Director
Growing up in the Bronx, Jennifer Rolle enjoyed a steady diet of classic film served up by her movie-loving mom. After spending several years in the insurance, real estate, and advertising industries, she began her filmmaking career in earnest. Her first film was a short entitled, “Two Paychecks Away,” which she financed, produced, and directed. “A Conversation with Greg” followed.
Jennifer’s current project, the feature-length documentary entitled, “The Black Suffragist: Trailblazers of Social Justice,” explores the challenges encountered by African-Americans as they pursued the right to vote. Rolle’s production company, Cat Island Cinema LLC, is producing the documentary in association with Women’s Voices Now.
A graduate of New York University, Jennifer resides in Montclair with her daughter, Tiana, and two fur babies. Her other interests include music session photography and web development. For more information, please visit blacksuffragette.com.