Tanya Thomas- Coates President of the Tennessee Education Association Photos by Vivian Shipe

By Vivian Shipe

KNOXVILLE, TN — In 2020, COVID shut down the initial plans for the celebration of the 100-year anniversary of womens’ right to vote. However, just as women were persistent to get that right, so too were they determined to celebrate that centennial victory.

Wanda Sobieski, President of Knoxville Suffrage Coalition for over 20 years on far right, proudly marches onto the mall.

After several delays from Covid and subsequent outbreaks of variants – the parade stepped off in downtown Knoxville on a cloudy Saturday afternoon. While many were watching the Kentucky Derby, others gathered on the mall after the parade to hear a proclamation from the mayor and  hear about leaders in the suffrage movement – including the history of one African American Nashville suffragist, Juno Frankie Pierce who had a park dedicated in her name in Nashville in 2019.

Pierce was one of hundreds of African American women who fought for the right to vote. She spoke at the inagural convention of the League of Women Voters of Tennessee. She was the first Black woman to ever speak at the convention and in her famous speech, Pierce brokered the square deal that promoted interests of both Black and white women.

In honor of Pierce and the thousands of Black women who fought for the right to vote, several League members dressed in black.

The Knoxville Knox County League of Women Voters along with the Knoxville Suffrage Coalition presented the event, the first of three that will be held over the summer. Along with a week-long tour of the history of the suffrage journey, there is a musical planned for August which will be held in the historic Bijou Theatre.