Southern Black Women in Jim Crow America


Anne Moody, Author of Coming of Age in Mississippi

Check out Andrew Joseph Pedoga’s recent piece at Time: “What People Still Get Wrong About Segregation.” Here is a taste:


During Black History Month and beyond, Americans are generally taught to believe that contact between white and black Americans was gradually prohibited after Reconstruction through a combination of social and legal traditions. Under the regime of Jim Crow segregation, two supposedly “separate but equal” societies gradually emerged — one for white people, another for black people — and lasted until the ’50s and ’60s.

The two societies in that infamous phrase were never equal, as the Supreme Court acknowledged in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education, but the “separate” part of the equation is misleading, too. In fact, in the Jim Crow South, Americans of different races lived in extremely close contact — contact that was vital to maintaining and perpetuating racist and unequal ideologies; contact that manifested through never-ending physical and psychological violence.

Little shows the intensity of these inseparable and unequal interactions better than a typical day for Southern black women, perhaps as many as 90% of whom labored as maids for white families from the late 19th century until the 1960s.

Though the idea that segregation meant separation is still common, it’s easy to learn what the reality was like, thanks to a landmark collection of oral histories, The Maid Narratives — but also works such as bell hooks’ Ain’t I a Woman, Jacqueline Jones’ Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow, Leon F. Litwack’s Trouble in Mind, Vanessa H. May’s Unprotected Labor, Danielle L. McGuire’s At the Dark End of the Street, Anne Moody’s Coming of Age in Mississippi and Susan Tucker’s Telling Memories Among Southern Women.

Read the rest here.