CAB: Resources for "Our Existence is Resistance"
Below is the Cumulative Annotated Bibliography I created during my first term in graduate school. After presenting at the 7th Annual Archeological Conference of the South Carolina Lowcountry, a few people came up and asked about my research. I'm committed to sharing everything I've learned and making resources as accessible is possible. Whether reading for work, school, or pleasure, I will continuously update my reading list with literature that is expanding my outlook. I hope it is as helpful to you!
Clinton, Catherine. “Bloody Terrain: Freedwomen, Sexuality and Violence During Reconstruction,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 76, no. 2 (Summer 1992): 313-332
Clinton, author of the acclaimed biography, Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom, and professor of American History at University of Texas at San Antonia, doesn’t mince words in the title of this article. Utilizing countless primary sources from the Freedman’s Bureau, court records, both black and white news publications and personal journals, she writes life into the horrific experiences of freed women in Atlanta, Georgia and surrounding rural areas. Readers will be struck by the nuances of slavery and freedom in the cosmopolitan city of Atlanta, as opposed to the conditions of both in Lowcountry, rural and mountainous regions. She provides several accounts of freed women who victims of rape—a tool of warfare used by white men to control both freedmen and women. In many cases, freed women did not report their attacks in fear of being seen at the Freedman’s Bureau’s office and suffering retaliation from a white mob. Clinton includes several anecdotes with names and ages, allowing the reader to see these characters as full people and empathize with them A particular excellent component of this article is the data Clinton offers to counter the poor interpretation that the domestic enslaved, and later free housemaids, were some how safer from violence because they worked inside of the house and not in the fields doing agricultural labor. One needs only to compare the stories of Jane Twyman and Rhoda Ann Childs. Both free Black women, Twyman, a housemaid was brutally beaten and murdered by white father and son after accusing two white women of infidelity. Childs, a married tenant farmer who was taken from her home, beaten, gang raped, and penetrated with the pistol of one of her assailants. Black women were not safe from those committed to their defilement no matter where they worked. Clinton brings her decades of scholarship, advisory board memberships, publications and dedication to women’s history, slavery and the Civil War to this article—making it an intense, painful and illuminating contribution to various fields of study.
Collins, Patricia Hill. "What's in a name? Womanism, black feminism, and beyond." The Black Scholar no. 1 (1996): 9. Academic OneFile, EBSCO host (accessed March 27, 2017).
Sociologist Patricia Collins is well known for her first book, Black Feminist Thought, which received the ASA Jessie Bernard Award, the SSSP C. Wright Mills Award, and many others. She also served as the 100th president of the American Sociological Association, becoming the first African American woman to hold this position.1 In “What’s in a name?” Collins details the ongoing intellectual debate between those who identify as womanists, black feminists, or nothing at all. She provides historical context for both ideologies, beginning with womanism. A reader unfamiliar with any of the ideologies would feel informed and perhaps even a bit overwhelmed. She describes the racist origins of feminism and the lofty ideals of womanism. She argues that womanism, black feminism or any other title is necessary for Black women who are committed to liberation to continue their work. She makes a salient acknowledgement when she writes, “First, it is important to keep in mind that the womanist/black feminist debate occurs primarily among relatively privileged black women.”2 This point heavily influenced my term paper as it puts the whole debate between the ideologies into a new perspective. While the goals of those who identify with either term are to uplift Black women as a whole; often the Black women existing outside of the conversation are the most vulnerable and in need of agency. Readers can muse over the historical and sociological data, and insight she provides, as they grapple with their own positions on the matter.
Du Bois, W.E.B. Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880. New York: Atheneum. 1977.
In this remarkably brave work, Du Bois sets out to correct the illusions, misconceptions, and lies formerly accepted as facts regarding the Reconstruction period of American history. He challenges politicians, scientists, doctors and academics who conspired to justify slavery and paint the following twenty years as a failure. What sets this piece of work apart from others of its kind is the insight Du Bois provides into every perspective involved. For example, within the first three chapters he introduces and explains the plight of the enslaved, the white planter class and the white working class in the years leading up to the Civil War. He provides dates, names and quotes ranging from the 17th century origins of the US to 1880. Readers will be struck by the direct correlations that can be drawn to present-day events and the causality Du Bois suggests between the past and today. Perhaps best known for his book, The Souls of Black Folk, throughout his adult life, Du Bois challenged the status quo and championed the cause of the African American. Because of the in depth but clearly articulated way he presents multiple vantage points and motivations, readers interested in an inclusive history won’t read this work as overly biased or anti-white. In his brief introduction, Du Bois makes clear this is a book for people who know that Africans and their descendants are human beings. Anyone without that base level of knowledge shouldn’t continue reading. This book is necessary for the understanding of history, present-day politics, institutionalized racism and anti-black violence.
Feimster, Crystal N. "The Impact of Racial and Sexual Politics on Women's History." Journal Of American History 99, no. 3 (December 2012): 822-826.
Dr. Crystal N. Feimster writes “The Impact of Racial and Sexual Politics on Women’s History” to highlight the extensive work of scholars reshaping the field and comprehension of race, women and gender studies. This article reads as a shoutout, or acknowledgement of scholars of history and other disciplines who’ve added nuance to this subject matter. Feimster states that the Reagan - George H.W. Bush era, as well as Anita Hill’s widely publicized and politicized sexual harassment case against Clarence Thomas forced feminists, women’s historians, and Africana scholars to re-explore the intersections of race and gender. It was understood that it wasn’t enough to simply acknowledge that Black women experience both race and gender in a way that can’t be separated. It was necessary to highlight the history of sexual violence that impacted both Black and white women’s lives. The footnotes are packed with incredible resources, relevant reading suggestions and significant contributors to this discussion. Readers are inspired to continue researching and guided to the appropriate sources.
Feimster, Crystal N. “What If I Am a Woman”: Black Women’s Campaigns for Sexual Justice and Citizenship.” n.p.: University of North Carolina Press, 2015.
Crystal Feimster has published numerous books and articles that focused on the sexual exploitation and survival of African American women. In “Black Women’s Campaign for Sexual Justice and Citizenship,” she discusses the ways Black women fought for their sexual freedom and human rights. Until 1861, it was believed that Black women couldn’t be victims of rape. This convenient belief rested upon the strategically crafted, widely accepted narrative that Black women were sexual deviants who never turned down sex—especially the sexual advances of white men.3 She counters this false narrative with accounts from Black women who adamantly opposed the brutal treatment and dehumanization at the hands of both black and white men. Another valuable aspect of this chapter is her reference to other scholars actively transforming the field and understanding of race, women and gender studies. This seems to be a signature of Feimster’s. Whether in the footnotes or the text, she provides a roadmap of professionals who’ve laid the groundwork she builds upon or can give deeper insight to the subjects.
Gillin, Kate Côté. Shrill Hurrahs: Women, Gender, and Racial Violence in South Carolina, 1865-1900. Columbia, US: University of South Carolina Press, 2013. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 29 March 2017.
If one were to begin reading this book, and only later glance at the title, he or she could easily confuse “shrill hurrahs” with “shrill horrors.” Holding a Ph.D. in American History, Côté uses this book to shatter false perceptions of gender norms and race relations and replacing them with a much more frightening reality. She argues that both Black and white women actively reshaped South Carolina following the Civil War. Often, regarding the latter, these women impacted change in ways they didn’t intend.
This is an incredible source for many reasons. Perhaps some of the most prominent myths Côté shatters are those that paint Southern women, Black and white, as feeble, unintelligent and passive. With letters, military records and rare personal accounts of freed women, she forces readers to re-imagine the relationships between Blacks and whites, masters turned employers and slaves turned paid employees. History isn’t nearly as cut and dry as it as previously been presented. Côté argues that sadistic physical and sexual violence enacted by white men was a strategic effort to create a society resembling slavery as much as possible. She also indicates that while white women strove to find their own standing in the new terrain following slavery, their self -interests and commitment to a white supremacist racial hierarchy made them hostile and worthy opponents of Black people’s freedom. Côté received the Carolina Ray Hovey 1967 Master Teachership and the Award for Teaching Excellence from the Madeira School in McLean, Virginia.4 One only needs to read her work to understand why she is deserving of such acclaim.
hooks, bell. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. New York: Routledge, 2015.
Celebrated author, educator and feminist, hooks writes Feminist Theory in response to a need she recognized. She begins the book with her history and the history of feminism, and how she was shaped and radicalized by both. Readers will detect the consideration hooks puts into her words. They will be moved by hooks natural tone and a writing style that is both intellectual and conversational. If one were to assume that hooks’ feminist identity would make more unfair bias in her explanation of this theory, they’d be mistaken. While she is obviously committed to this philosophy and the fight for women’s liberation, she is not disillusioned. Her loyalty to feminism and the triumphs the movement has accomplished does not allow her to forget history. She spends time analyzing the white supremacist origins of feminism. She writes of challenging a classroom full of white women to consider that gender wasn’t the only determinant in what battles an individual will be faced with. Throughout her life she has encouraged others to consider and analyze the intersecting identities of all women. She cares about and details feminism’s weaknesses and strengths.
Hunter, Tera W. To ‘Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors after the Civil War. Harvard University Press, 1997. http://hdl.handle.net.proxy.myunion.edu/2027/heb.01712.0001.001
Tera W. Hunter is a Professor of History and African American studies at Princeton University. Her research focuses on women and gender roles of African American women during the 19th and 20th centuries. Hunter succeeds in depicting southern freed
women as having fierce agency and active roles in forging their freedom. Not unlike Clifton, Hunter makes excellent use of primary documents that give names and faces to the women she describes. She eloquently summarizes the main goals of freed women in her prologue when she writes, “To enjoy the splendid fruits of freedom at last! Here was her opportunity to protect her dignity, to preserve the integrity of her family, and to secure fair terms for her labor.”5 With an awareness of these motivating factors, readers led to a region riddled with conflict, sexual violence, exploitation and fear. Hunter’s table of contents serves as a visual timeline, as each chapter delineates a successive time period in the decades during and following the Civil War. Many perspectives are presented—not solely those of freed women. This prevents the perception of bias, even though African American women are the obvious focus. This book was awarded the H. L. Mitchell Award in 1998 from the Southern Historical Association, the Letitia Brown Memorial Book Prize in 1997 from the Association of Black Women’s Historians and the Book of the Year Award in 1997 from the International Labor History Association.
Phillips, Layli. Womanist Reader. Florence, KY, USA: Routledge, 2006.
Womanist Reader is an excellent anthology of womanist theory and scholarship. In her introduction, Phillips provides her own insight of the field. She believes that the practice of womanism existed long before it was given a name or any attention from academia. She argues that there are examples throughout history of Africana women displaying attributes of bravery, wittiness, disruptiveness, resistance and self-awareness; attributes associated with womanism. She acknowledges Alice Walker as the creator of the term and provides two separate passages written by Walker to expound on her meaning. Within the anthology she includes the creators of African Womanism and Africana Womanism and other prominent voices. Phillips (now Dr. Layli Maparyan) is the Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and is renown for her work and research of womanism. Those interested are surely to find something significant and relevant within all the nuanced, yet connected ideals represented in this book. Those unfamiliar with womanism and those who are interested in a more in a deeper understanding will find this text illuminating and informative.
Schwalm, Leslie A. "'Sweet Dreams of Freedom': Freedwomen's Reconstruction of Life and Labor in Lowcountry South Carolina." Journal Of Women's History 9, no. 1 (1997)
In this essay, Schwalm describes the strides free Gullah Geechee women made in creating their own definitions and realities of freedom following the Civil War. These women are heavily impacted, but not deterred by the violence, chaos and confusion that greatly made up their transition from slavery to freedom. They are depicted as strategic, witty, strong and self-assured women, active in their survival and the survival of their families. Schwalm is a feminist and an historian. Along with teaching at the University of Iowa, she orchestrates panels and and has published countless literature on the subjects of race, gender, southern slavery and its impact. This is an extremely useful tool in beginning to understand the complex experiences of freedpeople, most specifically women, living in South Carolina during the mid 1800s. She greatly challenges notions that enslaved and later freed Gullah Geechee women were timid, passive and uninvolved in gaining their freedom and creating lives for themselves. Throughout the article, Schwalm also names other prominent scholars, providing a map to an even greater understanding.
Tsuruta, Dorothy Randall. "The Womanish Roots of Womanism: A Culturally-Derived and African-Centered Ideal (Concept)." Western Journal Of Black Studies 36, no. 1 (Spring2012): 3-10.
Tsuruta seeks to reclaim Womanist theory, and reposition its “womanish” origins back within an African-centered context. A professor of Africana Studies at the University of San Francisco, Tsuruta makes an incredible argument for her case. Comparing womanism to Jazz, a part of African American culture that is regularly appropriated by white Americans, she claims it is much wiser to assert ownership of womanism now, rather than to argue and beg for it back after it has been taken claimed by others. She references Alice Walker, known as the creator of the term, and discusses how the word “womanish,” which is included in Walker’s definition of womanism, is a term deeply rooted within Africana culture and experience. She goes on to assert that though non-white women who identify as feminists must constantly grapple with the ways feminism historically ignores their intersectional identities, including race, gender and sexuality, womanism exists separately from and despite feminism. Womanism affirms the intersectional identities of Black women. Tsuruta makes her point; however, she can easily be read as angry or combative. This voice feels warranted, although every reader will not feel the same.