A densely packed study of politics and a circumscribed social group--middle-class black women--that reopens an entire...

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"GENDER AND JIM CROW: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920"

A densely packed study of politics and a circumscribed social group--middle-class black women--that reopens an entire segment of post-Reconstruction American history. Using her native North Carolina as a geographical focus, Gilmore (History/Yale Univ.) first illustrates the tenuous post-Civil War openness that fostered a black middle class, details the institution of a policy of white supremacy that by 1900 resulted in the demonization and disenfranchisement of black men, and chronicles black women's efforts to effect political change outside the system. To remain involved in politics, black women turned to many kinds of public activity not connected to the all-white political parties--promoting education, sponsoring civic improvement projects, organizing temperance unions. Gilmore ends her study with the granting of suffrage to women in 1920, which, while not ending white supremacy, at least diminished one of its ""vulgar mechanisms."" Gilmore's varied examples provide a powerful portrait of the depth and scope of black political activity during this difficult period, as well as the relentlessness of the white supremacy movement, and offer further insight into the origins of the modern civil rights movement. Memorable passages include Gilmore's description of the long struggle of Charlotte Hawkins Brown, an influential figure in North Carolina, to build bridges between black and white America; her analysis of how the Republican Party recast itself to exclude blacks; and her study of the impact on racial issues of North Carolinian Thomas Dixon's two racist novels: The Leopard's Spots (1902) and The Clansman (1905), the source of the movie sensation Birth of a Nation. Gilmore presents her research with clarity and vigor. Not a polemic, the book convinces because of its rigorous scholarship. Gilmore permanently revises the accepted history of the Jim Crow period.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 1996

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 410

Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996