“Parlor Ladies and Ebony Drudges does not simply fill in another piece of the mosaic that women’s historians have been assembling. Raising new questions, it offers a fresh perspective on the history of African American women and invites us to follow new paths of inquiry.”—from the Foreword by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese
Focusing on the community of Orangeburg, South Carolina, from 1880 to 1940, Parlor Ladies and Ebony Drudges explores the often sharp class divisions that developed among African African women in that small, semirural area.
Kibibi Voloria Mack’s research challenges the conventional thesis that all African American women toiled—and toiled hard—throughout their lives. She shows that this was only true if they belonged to certain socioeconomic classes. Mack finds that, in Orangeburg, a significant minority did not have to work outside the home (unless they chose to do so) and that some even had staffs of domestics to do their housework—a situation paralleling that of the town’s genteel white women. While the factors of gender and race did restrict the lives of all African American women in Jim Crow Orangeburg, Mack argues, there was no real solidarity across class lines. In fact, as she points out, tensions often arose between women of the upper classes and those of the middle and working classes.
Mack offers a rich picture of the work patterns, social lives, home lives, attitudes, and self-images of the women of each class, carefully distinguishing their differences and noting the historical changes and continuities that affected them. The book is not only an important contribution to the study of African American women in the South but also to the research on women’s work more generally: it is a vital corrective to the past emphasis on white women living in northeastern urban areas.
The Author: Kibibi Voloria C. Mack is an assistant professor in the Africana Studies Department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She is a native of Orangeburg, South Carolina, and received her doctorate in history at the State University of New York, Binghamton. The mother of four daughters, she has also written several books for young people on African and African American history.
In Passionate and Pious Monique Moultrie explores the impact of faith-based sexual ministries on black women's sexual agency to trace how these women navigate sexuality, religious authority, and their spiritual walk with God. Providing churchwomen a space to candidly discuss these issues, these popular ministries exist largely beyond the traditional church, with dialogues about sex taking place in chat rooms and through text messages, social media, email, and other media. Moultrie foregrounds televangelist Juanita Bynum's construction of the black Christian sexual identity these ministries promote while emphasizing how churchwomen reconcile these prescriptive identities with their individual experiences. What does it mean for senior women to exercise sexual agency when their church standing could be questioned? What does celibacy mean for women who experience same-sex desire while believing that such desire goes against God's will? Advancing a womanist sexual ethics, Moultrie reframes biblical interpretations and conceptions of what constitutes a healthy relationship to provide a basis for sexual decision making that does not privilege monogamy or deny female pleasure, thereby calling on black churchwomen to experience responsible and life-enhancing sex.
The People from Heaven
John Sanford University of Illinois Press, 1996 Library of Congress PS3537.A694P46 1995 | Dewey Decimal 813.52
An extraordinary novel, told partly in verse, The People from Heaven takes place in 1943 in Warrensburg, New York, where Eli Bishop, a white shopkeeper, initiates a reign of terror on the populace following his rape of America Smith, a black woman. The author, John Sanford, is considered by many to be one of the finest little-known writers of the twentieth century. In his introduction, Alan Wald provides an overview of Sanford's career, his art, and his politics.
In this thorough and detailed study, Richard Douglass-Chin examines collectively for the first time the autobiographies of nineteenth-century African American women evangelists, along with their eighteenth-century forerunner "Belinda." By studying how black women evangelists employed dialogue created by socioeconomic conditions, the author shows how their writings form the groundwork for a contemporary womanist literature rooted in spirituality. Arguing that the writings have their own unique figurations and forms that develop and alter over time, Douglass-Chin claims that the changing black female spiritual narrative traces an important line in the ongoing traditions of black women's writing, a line that has only now begun to be reclaimed and validated. Through references to the writings of black male autobiographers Frederick Douglass, Richard Allen, Daniel Payne, and John Jea as well as the works of white female autobiographers Harriet Livermore and Phoebe Palmer, Douglass-Chin is able to make valuable comparisons.
Preacher Woman Sings the Blues begins with the study of black evangelists Belinda, Jarena Lee, and Zilpha Elaw, continuing with Rebecca Cox Jackson, Sojourner Truth, Julia Foote, Amanda Smith, Elizabeth, and Virginia Broughton. The author's discussion of Zora Neale Hurston focuses on how Hurston operates as a connection between early black women evangelist writers and black women writing in America today. He ends with the works of Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Toni Cade Bambara.
By examining the early traditions prefiguring contemporary African American women's texts and the impact that race and gender have on them, Douglass-Chin shows how the nineteenth-century black women's works are still of utmost importance to many African American women writers today. Preacher Woman Sings the Blues makes a valuable contribution to literary criticism and theoretical analysis and will be welcomed by scholars and students alike.
Sarah Bracey White CavanKerry Press, 2013 Library of Congress F279.S92W55 2013 | Dewey Decimal 975.769043092
Ripped from middle-class life in Philadelphia, and transplanted to a single-parent household in the segregated south, Sarah, a precocious black child struggles to be the master of her fate. She refuses to accept the segregation that tries to confine her—a system her mother accepts as the southern way of life. A brave memoir that testifies to the author’s fiery spirit and sense of self that sustained her through family, social and cultural upheavals.
In The Pursuit of Happiness Bianca C. Williams traces the experiences of African American women as they travel to Jamaica, where they address the perils and disappointments of American racism by looking for intimacy, happiness, and a connection to their racial identities. Through their encounters with Jamaican online communities and their participation in trips organized by Girlfriend Tours International, the women construct notions of racial, sexual, and emotional belonging by forming relationships with Jamaican men and other "girlfriends." These relationships allow the women to exercise agency and find happiness in ways that resist the damaging intersections of racism and patriarchy in the United States. However, while the women require a spiritual and virtual connection to Jamaica in order to live happily in the United States, their notion of happiness relies on travel, which requires leveraging their national privilege as American citizens. Williams's theorization of "emotional transnationalism" and the construction of affect across diasporic distance attends to the connections between race, gender, and affect while highlighting how affective relationships mark nationalized and gendered power differentials within the African diaspora.
Putting Their Hands on Race offers an important labor history of 19th and early 20th century Irish immigrant and US southern Black migrant domestic workers. Drawing on a range of archival sources, this intersectional study explores how these women were significant to the racial labor and citizenship politics of their time. Their migrations to northeastern cities challenged racial hierarchies and formations. Southern Black migrant women resisted the gendered racism of domestic service, and Irish immigrant women strove to expand whiteness to position themselves as deserving of labor rights. On the racially fractious terrain of labor, Black women and Irish immigrant women, including Victoria Earle Matthews, the “Irish Rambler”, Leonora Barry, and Anna Julia Cooper, gathered data, wrote letters and speeches, marched, protested, engaged in private acts of resistance in the workplace, and created women’s institutions and organizations to assert domestic workers’ right to living wages and protection.