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Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920 (Gender and American Culture) 1st New edition Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0807845967
ISBN-10: 0807845965
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Historian Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore examines an unfamiliar world in this groundbreaking study, the world of middle-class, educated black women at a time that was one of the nadirs of black-white relations in America. With the Supreme Court's affirmation of legal segregation, Southern black men found themselves disfranchised and excluded from politics. Black women filled that vacuum, Gilmore argues, making a place for themselves as ambassadors to the white community, and as activists on behalf of blacks, and bequeathing to their descendants a heritage of resistance that culminated in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In this extensively documented history, Gilmore (history, Yale) examines the imposition of legally mandated segregation in North Carolina at the turn of the century. African Americans had achieved significant success in that state even after the end of Reconstruction, and Gilmore argues that the incentive for segregation emerged in response to that success and to the stirrings of independence of white women. Vilification of the black man as a sexual predator served the twin purposes of banishing potential economic and political rivals and restricting the ambition of white women. This focus, however, provided an opportunity for black women to play the role of "diplomat" to the white community and to initiate a small measure of interracial cooperation. Although well written, this densely detailed exposition will attract a chiefly academic audience.?Cynthia Harrison, George Washington Univ., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Gender and American Culture
  • Paperback: 410 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1st New edition edition (September 23, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807845965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807845967
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on March 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is a mind-blower. It reveals the history of white supremacy as an overt political campaign in the South in the early 20th century, and more importantly the roles that middle-class black women self-consciously assumed in this very dangerous cultural arena. Historins talks a lot about ideology and race and agency, but this is the most skillful and convincing account that I've read: by examining how people - men, women, poor, rich, black, white - understood and tried to shape their worlds, Gilmore recasts a significant portion of American history, and made me re-examine my assumptions about racism and gender and politics. I'm working towards my graduate degree in history, so I've had to read scores of books that cover similar ground - and this is the by far the best treatment that I've read. Also very important: Gilmore is an excellent writer - this text reads as smoothly and as compellingly as a novel. Can't recommend it highly enough.
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As Gilmore writes (p. 1) in Gender and Jim Crow, "since historians enter a story at its end, they sometimes forget that what is past to them was future to their subjects." And with regard to black optimism, potential and opportunities during Reconstruction, African American "subjects" looked forward to a future of encouraging possibilities, as African American males had real political power and influence within the Republican and populist parties, which courted their votes. These men and women believed that race as a social classification would decline in importance in favor of class. Yet just as the hopes of Agrarian radicals were thwarted by the harsh the realities of the two-party system, so too were the dreams of Reconstruction-era blacks crushed by the resurgence of white supremacy and the systematic attempts by whites to disenfranchise the Negro. Gilmore presents this tale of high hopes and shattered dreams in her first chapter, "Place and Possibility."
Gilmore's story is one of perseverance among the increasingly subjugated blacks of North Carolina after Reconstruction ended, in particular, the struggle of middle class black women to maintain power, dignity and to some degree control over their lives and communities. By the 1890s, the ugly image of white supremacy showed its face, as white men fought a successful battle to disenfranchise black men through the instrument of fear, that is to say, fear for the safety of white women from the ravenous clutches of Negro rapists. As Gilmore details, this sexually based contrivance branded black men as beasts and drove them from the political realm.
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Format: Paperback
Gilmore breaks new ground on many fronts that will interest social historians of race and political historians. She uncovers the myriad arenas in which black women and white women pursued "politics" outside the formal arenas of electoral institutions. She also reveals the surprising coalitions formed across racial lines and the mindset of an upper-South State on the eve of disenfranchisement. Gilmore's writing flows smoothly, as other reviewers have noted, but at times becomes overwrought and sentimentalized in a way that makes it sometimes tedious and sometimes aggravating to stay with the text. She's become captured a bit by her characters and sources. But this is a small criticism in the context of an overwise pathbreaking study that's well worth the read.
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Format: Paperback
The influence of sex on gender is often mistakenly emphasized to the extent where sex and gender are seen as synonyms. Historian Glenda Gilmore challenges this aberration by re-examining the formative years of Jim Crow in North Carolina through the lens of middle-class African American Women. Her reconstruction of this assumed history demonstrates acute gender construction divergences based on race, class, and political circumstance. Gilmore discloses the dynamics of marriage, education, and above all hope in shaping the differences between gender construction between African Americans and whites.

The racial progressive momentum of Reconstruction shaped educated African American women to uplift their race in an effort to improve living standards for their families, to open up opportunities for their sex for both races, and to change white attitudes toward African Americans. By accenting the life of Sarah Dudley Petty, Gilmore reveals that her activism as a "feminist" and as an African American was in contrast to white women because black women were responding not just to patriarchy but to racial oppression as well.

A famous example of how African American women hoped to uplift their race was through their work in the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). This organization provided North Carolina's black women "their best hope for building strong communities and securing interracial cooperation" (32). The WCTU became a point of mutually for both whites and blacks to improve community and gender equality. When black men voted, white women welcomed and sought out the activism of black women.
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