At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance--A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power

30 Nov

At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance--A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power

At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance--A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power

Danielle L. McGuire

Language: English

Pages: 377

ISBN: 2:00337435

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Rosa Parks was often described as a sweet and reticent elderly woman whose tired feet caused her to defy segregation on Montgomery’s city buses, and whose supposedly solitary, spontaneous act sparked the 1955 bus boycott that gave birth to the civil rights movement.

The truth of who Rosa Parks was and what really lay beneath the 1955 boycott is far different from anything previously written.

In this groundbreaking and important book, Danielle McGuire writes about the rape in 1944 of a twenty-four-year-old mother and sharecropper, Recy Taylor, who strolled toward home after an evening of singing and praying at the Rock Hill Holiness Church in Abbeville, Alabama. Seven white men, armed with knives and shotguns, ordered the young woman into their green Chevrolet, raped her, and left her for dead. The president of the local NAACP branch office sent his best investigator and organizer to Abbeville. Her name was Rosa Parks. In taking on this case, Parks launched a movement that ultimately changed the world.

The author gives us the never-before-told history of how the civil rights movement began; how it was in part started in protest against the ritualistic rape of black women by white men who used economic intimidation, sexual violence, and terror to derail the freedom movement; and how those forces persisted unpunished throughout the Jim Crow era when white men assaulted black women to enforce rules of racial and economic hierarchy. Black women’s protests against sexual assault and interracial rape fueled civil rights campaigns throughout the South that began during World War II and went through to the Black Power movement. The Montgomery bus boycott was the baptism, not the birth, of that struggle.

At the Dark End of the Street describes the decades of degradation black women on the Montgomery city buses endured on their way to cook and clean for their white bosses. It reveals how Rosa Parks, by 1955 one of the most radical activists in Alabama, had had enough. “There had to be a stopping place,” she said, “and this seemed to be the place for me to stop being pushed around.” Parks refused to move from her seat on the bus, was arrested, and, with fierce activist Jo Ann Robinson, organized a one-day bus boycott.

The protest, intended to last twenty-four hours, became a yearlong struggle for dignity and justice. It broke the back of the Montgomery city bus lines and bankrupted the company.

We see how and why Rosa Parks, instead of becoming a leader of the movement she helped to start, was turned into a symbol of virtuous black womanhood, sainted and celebrated for her quiet dignity, prim demeanor, and middle-class propriety—her radicalism all but erased. And we see as well how thousands of black women whose courage and fortitude helped to transform America were reduced to the footnotes of history.

A controversial, moving, and courageous book; narrative history at its best.















“It feels good to be free.”94 News of the victory quickly spread to the crowd of one hundred supporters outside. When Little emerged, the throng erupted into cheers and chanted, “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!”95 At a press conference later that day in the green-and-yellow lobby of the Lemon Tree Inn, Little told reporters that she “always had confidence in the people.” She believed she received a fair trial, Little said, despite the fact that prosecutors were, as she put it, more “interested in

Journeys, 46. 134. “Digest of Proceedings, Sojourn for Truth and Justice, Washington, D.C., Sept. 29 thru Oct. 1, 1951,” box 12, LTP. 135. For more on the Rosa Lee Ingram case, see Charles H. Martin, “Race, Gender and Southern Justice: The Rosa Lee Ingram Case,” American Journal of Legal History 29, no. 3 (July 1985): 251–68; Virginia Shadron, Popular Protest and Legal Authority in Post–World War II Georgia: Race, Class, and Gender Politics in the Rosa Lee Ingram Case, Ph.D. diss. (Emory

“Club from Nowhere” ChT, December 12, 1975, 1. 125. Ibid. 126. Brinkley, Rosa, 147. 127. Erna Dungee Allen, interview by Steven Millner, August 8, 1977, in Garrow, Walking City, 522–23. On “formal leadership,” see Belinda Robnett, How Long? How Long? African American Women in the Struggle for Civil Rights (New York, 1997), 18. 128. Robnett, How Long?, 65. 129. Brinkley, Rosa, 147. 130. Ibid. 131. Yeakey, Boycott, 410. 132. Ibid., 389. 133. Robnett, How Long?, 65. 134. Robinson,

25, 2006. 47. Even after Byron de la Beckwith assassinated Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers on June 11, 1963, the Kennedy administration’s solution to white violence was to get “black people off the streets” and negotiate with white leaders who continued to flout the constitution. According to Dittmer, the “Kennedys demonstrated once again that in the short run, at least, they preferred order to justice.” Dittmer, Local People, 169. For more on the life and death of Medgar Evers, see Myrlie

CHAPTER 8 “Power to the Ice Pick!” EPILOGUE “We All Lived in Fear for Years” Acknowledgments Notes Bibliography Illustrations 1.1 Members of the SNYC’s Third Conference Preparation Group gather at Miles College in Alabama, 1940. (Courtesy of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University) 1.2 Esther Cooper, executive secretary of the SNYC (Courtesy of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University) 1.3 Recy Taylor, Willie Guy Taylor, and their child, Joyce Lee Taylor

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