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At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance--A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 7, 2010

4.9 out of 5 stars 87 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Long before Rosa Parks became famous for resisting Jim Crow laws, she was engaged in advocating for social justice for black women who were the victims of sexual violence at the hands of white men. Historian McGuire aims to rewrite the history of the civil rights movement by highlighting sexual violence in the broader context of racial injustice and the fight for freedom. Parks worked as an investigator for the NAACP branch office in Montgomery, Alabama, specializing in cases involving black women who had been sexually assaulted by white men––cases that often went untried and were the political opposite of the allegations of black men raping white women ending in summary lynching with or without trials. McGuire traces the history of several rape cases that triggered vehement resistance by the NAACP and other groups, including the 1975 trial of Joan Little, who killed a white jailer who sexually assaulted her. Despite the long tradition of dismissing charges brought by blacks against whites, several of the cases ended in convictions, as black women asserted their right to be treated justly. --Vanessa Bush


"Groundbreaking . . . inspiring."

—Bliss Broyard, ELLE

"One one of those rare studies that makes a well-known story seem startlingly new. Anyone who thinks he knows the history of the modern civil rights movement needs to read this terrifying, illuminating book."

—Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age, winner of the National Book Award.

"McGuire restores to memory the courageous black women who dared seek legal remedy, when black women and their families faced particular hazards for doing so. McGuire brings the reader through a dark time via a painful but somehow gratifying passage in this compelling, carefully documented work."
Publishers Weekly (starred)

"This gripping story changes the history books, giving us a revised Rosa Parks and a new civil rights story. You can’t write a general U.S. history without altering crucial sentences because of McGuire’s work. Masterfully narrated, At the Dark End of the Street presents a deep civil rights movement with women at the center, a narrative as poignant, painful and complicated as our own lives."
—Timothy B. Tyson, author of Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story
"Just when we thought there couldn’t possibly be anything left to uncover about the civil rights movement, Danielle McGuire finds a new facet of that endlessly prismatic struggle at the core of our national identity. By reinterpreting black liberation through the lens of organized resistance to white male sexual aggression against African-American women, McGuire ingeniously upends the white race’s ultimate rationale for its violent subjugation of blacks—imputed black male sexual aggression against white women. It is an original premise, and At the Dark End of the Street delivers on it with scholarly authority and narrative polish."
—Diane McWhorter, author of Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution

"Following the lead of pioneers like Darlene Clark Hine, Danielle McGuire details the all too ignored tactic of rape of black women in the everyday practice of southern white supremacy. Just as important, she plots resistance against this outrage as an integral facet of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. This book is as essential as its history is infuriating."
—Nell Irvin Painter, author of The History of White People

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (September 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030726906X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307269065
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steve Nathans-kelly on September 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For many years, we've been taught the comforting narrative of the civil rights movement as a series of nonviolent protests, led by ministers, that so moved the hearts of northern white America that the courts and the government ruled and legislated white supremacy out of existence. Danielle McGuire's At the Dark End of the Street rewrites the story, affirms the pivotal role of black women in the freedom movement, and locates its origins in the most horrific realities of the Jim Crow south. It's a gripping, essential read for anyone who wants to understand the forces that drove the movement into high gear in the 1950s and '60s: namely, the night-riding ritual of white-on-black rape and the decades-long struggle of black women to stand up to these attacks when the police and the courts would not. McGuire traces this struggle back a decade before the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott through the efforts of none other than Rosa Parks--whose "tired feet" became a movement symbol that overshadowed her militancy--to investigate and publicize Alabama rape cases as an NAACP field secretary. McGuire powerfully relates the story of violence and resistance and sacrifice and triumph over 30 years, into the 1970s, and does a masterful job of setting the record straight. If you're at all interested in understanding why this country had to change, how it did change, and who changed it, At the Dark End of the Street is an absolute must-read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I could not put it down -- a powerful proof that the Southern black women's movement worked for decades to make the Rosa Parks Moment happen most powerfully, and to make the realizing of King's Dreams possible to start happening meaningfully as soon as he uttered them.

Without those groups, the economically profitable practice of treating humans like animals [or worse] could have spread across the whole world of commerce and become irredeemably entrenched, and "liberty and justice for all" would have remained a lie on the lips of every one of us white Americans -- a lie that we renewed every time we pledged allegiance to our flag.

These women showed us a path upon which we could rescue our own morality from the filthiest level of quality, and they put a bright light on the truth that folks who witness evil and do nothing become defacto participants in that evil -- guilty of doing nothing about states of ours that called the privilege-of-raping black women a fringe benefit for police officers and bus drivers; guilty of giving that privilege also to every morally empty white man or teenager by assuring them zero punishment.

A great book by a marvelously careful author who wrote with super clarity, and did research and documentation that -- in footnotes -- made credibility a sure thing. I saw zero 'spin'.

Buying from Amazon was my quickest and least expensive way to buy, and their delivery to me was -- just barely -- within their promised 14 day time spread. All in all I give Amazon my top rating.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Seriously. Out of all of the history books that i read in high school and in the libraries, this was the only one that actually CLICKED for me. The rampant rape of black women throughout slavery and the Jim Crow Era has always been ignored or quickly dismissed in historical books before but this great author made sure to NOT do that! I love her for that! This book needs to be made into a movie one day! This will be the first time where our stories will be told thoroughly.

I watched The Help, and it failed to mention the sexual assaults and rapes that the black women suffered. Although i enjoyed the movie somewhat, i was still disappointed because they refused to let our REAL stories get told. You can't have a good story set in the Jim Crow era without telling the rampant rapes of black women by white men and other men. It's part of our history. Whether many people want to admit it or not!
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Format: Hardcover
For years, I have read mostly fiction because, at the end of a day of working and chores and such, I usually want to read something that is lovely and that rolls along, frankly, without much effort. I want to visit another world and peer into other lives. At best, I want to be inspired. At worst, I want to be entertained and to not be annoyed by poorly written prose. Through the years, because I want my reading to inform my perception of the real world, I have gravitated more and more toward fiction that is written in order to illuminate a particular time or an actual human struggle.
Although Danielle McGuire's At the Dark End of the Street is a solidly researched history book (with an attendant fat section of fascinating endnotes) it met all of my requirements, and impressed me enough that I am taking the time to recommend it to you. It is beautifully written and zips along, lining up stories that lead naturally one to the other. Each evening, as with a good novel, I was anxious to get back to the book to see what was happening to its protagonists. This book deals with a harsh and real world, but peoples that world with women who inspire through their willingness to make their tragedies public, and to tell truth to power even though that power could reload and hurt them, and those they loved, again and again. I hope that McGuire's book will be read widely, because it will challenge the Great Man narratives that predominate in our public telling of the civil rights movement and help us to recognize the potential that ordinary people, speaking bravely and honestly, can have to change the course of history. But perhaps my favorite aspect of this brutal but uplifting history is that it illuminates the power of testimony as a personal and social and political act.
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