“Kidada Williams’s They Left Great Marks on Me is an impressive and important contribution to our understanding of African American life after the Civil War. Whereas most previous scholars utilized the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau and other agencies to document the causes, characteristics, and extent of anti-black violence during the postebellum period, Williams focuses on the importance of the testimony itself, especially to the African Americans who were brave enough to provide such testimony in the hostile environment of the era. She convincingly argues that this act of testifying itself was one of the galvanizing forces for the movement that eventually produced a host of civil rights activists at the turn of the twentieth century. While lifting up the transformative power of public testimony, Ms. Williams also helps re-center the discussion of white-on-black violence in the late nineteenth century, which all too often focuses on the most spectacular form of violence during that period, lynching, to the detriment of the more common and arguably more important day-to-day violence suffered by African Americans. This is an important work that should be widely read by all those interested in late nineteenth century America and the origins of the civil rights movement of the 20th century."
-William D. Carrigan,Rowan University, and author of The Making of a Lynching Culture
"Williams analyzes one means by which African Americans resisted the brutalities of white violence from 1865 through the 1920s and the impact of this activity to support the subsequent successes of the post-WWII civil rights movements. Highly recommended."-E.R. Crowther,CHOICE
"In her important, beautifully written book, Kidada E. Williams powerfully intervenes in the academic narrative of lynching, recovering African American testimonies of white terror and what she calls the 'vernacular history' that blacks constructed with regard to white efforts to re-subjugate African Americans after Reconstruction...Williams’s superlative interpretation of African American responses to racial violence should be read by all interested in the histories of American lynching and the African American experience."-Michael J. Pfeifer,American Historical Review
"Williams has offered a fascinating new approach to the study of mob violence and provided a richer understanding of African American experiences under white supremacy."-Journal of American History
"Her work succeeds admirably, particularly in its demonstration that the best sources for historians to study racial violence come directly from the mouths of the African Americans who survived it."-Journal of American Ethnic History
About the Author
Kidada E. Williams is Assistant Professor of African American history at Wayne State University