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Terror in the Heart of Freedom: Citizenship, Sexual Violence, and the Meaning of Race in the Postemancipation South (Gender and American Culture) [Paperback]

Hannah Rosen
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

February 1, 2009 080785882X 978-0807858820 1
The meaning of race in the antebellum southern United States was anchored in the racial exclusivity of slavery (coded as black) and full citizenship (coded as white as well as male). These traditional definitions of race were radically disrupted after emancipation, when citizenship was granted to all persons born in the United States and suffrage was extended to all men. Hannah Rosen persuasively argues that in this critical moment of Reconstruction, contests over the future meaning of race were often fought on the terrain of gender.

Sexual violence--specifically, white-on-black rape--emerged as a critical arena in postemancipation struggles over African American citizenship. Analyzing the testimony of rape survivors, Rosen finds that white men often staged elaborate attacks meant to enact prior racial hierarchy. Through their testimony, black women defiantly rejected such hierarchy and claimed their new and equal rights. Rosen explains how heated debates over interracial marriage were also attempts by whites to undermine African American men's demands for suffrage and a voice in public affairs. By connecting histories of rape and discourses of "social equality" with struggles over citizenship, Rosen shows how gendered violence and gendered rhetorics of race together produced a climate of terror for black men and women seeking to exercise their new rights as citizens. Linking political events at the city, state, and regional levels, Rosen places gender and sexual violence at the heart of understanding the reconsolidation of race and racism in the postemancipation United States.

Frequently Bought Together

Terror in the Heart of Freedom: Citizenship, Sexual Violence, and the Meaning of Race in the Postemancipation South (Gender and American Culture) + A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration
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Editorial Reviews


"This book is a must-read for anyone studying Reconstruction. . . . Terror in the Heart of Freedom makes a significant contribution to our understanding of black women's notions of freedom, virtue, and citizenship."--American Nineteenth Century History

"An excellent and important book. Rosen has made strong and thought-provoking connections between the politics of citizenship, gender constructions, and sexual violence in the South during Reconstruction. . . . An interesting and powerful work."--Journal of American Ethnic History

"Interesting and sound. . . . Rosen makes a unique contribution."--Arkansas Historical Quarterly

"A significant contribution in our understanding of the meaning of gender roles, racial and sexual violence, and citizenship."--The Alabama Review

"Rosen's accomplishments in this book are impressive and many. Combining solid research with an astute analysis of political rhetoric, her conclusions . . . are persuasive. . . . Of value and interest to the specialist as well as the classroom teacher."--Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

"An admirable job. . . . Invaluable to students of Reconstruction, race, or gender. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice

"A provocative and ultimately persuasive account of the symbolic and discursive power of violence to construct meanings of citizenship and political belonging."--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

Book Description

"Terror in the Heart of Freedom offers a compelling theoretical framework and is filled with first-rate close readings of Reconstruction debates and testimony. It advances our understanding of the connections between politics and gender, political terror and sexual violence, and the politics of slavery and of Reconstruction. It is truly exciting and important work. We need this book."--Stephen Kantrowitz, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Product Details

  • Series: Gender and American Culture
  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (February 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080785882X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807858820
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #404,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars compelling take on Reconstruction January 21, 2012
Hannah Rosen has written a compelling, at times brilliant, history of the ways and lengths to which black men and, especially, women fought for freedom. Following the destruction of slavery and the legal architecture it relied on, former enslaved people brought a hopeful vision to their daily struggles for freedom. As she examines the short-lived window of both hope and violence before another unequal racial hierarchy was constituted, Rosen shows how battles over enactments of citizenship, and the violence perpetrated by whites to constrain it, played out in the terrain of gender and sexuality, in particular, as black women struggled to control access to their own bodies and black men attempted to live out (white) masculine norms.

Two chapters anchor the book: ch 4 on struggles over the revamping of the Arkansas state constitution and ch 5, which details the threats of terror enacted on black women and the lengths to which they went to resist such terror. Prior to reading chapter 4, I imagined that any examination on state constitutions would be dry, but in Rosen's hands, the chapter shows the process by which opponents of extending full citizenship to blacks began to erect a new legal architecture of racial inequality.

No short review can do justice to such a wonderful book by a very skilled historian. A definite must-read!
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