Abolishinists, Feminists, and Hillary in History

During what was, in effect, an acceptance speech last night, Hillary Clinton emphasized her place in history – so far as history pertains to women.

There is, however, another way of reckoning with what happened. In the 21st century have been back to back President Barack Obama, and Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton. These are not just victories of sorts for African Americans, and for women. They are the most powerful possible indicators of how the world has changed – how those at the bottom rose to the top.

In the not so distant past African Americans were enslaved. And in the not so distant past women were, “if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.” To all appearances, both groups were without any power whatsoever, or any authority.

The reality, however, was different. During the 19th century abolitionists and feminists, often yoked in the quest for their rights, found ways to demand what rightfully was theirs. And during the 20th century Martin Luther King penned “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and Betty Friedan The Feminine Mystique. No coincidence these classics of the leadership literature – these protests in prose – came out at the same time, both in 1963.

Similarly, no coincidence that just over a half century later Hillary Clinton is likely to succeed Barack Obama as chief executive. Leadership changes over time – and so does followership. What was once unimaginable now is.


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