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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

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Groundbreaking, controversial, and courageous, here is the story of Rosa Parks and Recy Taylor—a story that reinterprets the history of America's civil rights movement in terms of the sexual violence committed against black women by white men. Rosa Parks was often described as a sweet and reticent elderly woman whose tired feet caused her to defy segregation on Montgomery’ Groundbreaking, controversial, and courageous, here is the story of Rosa Parks and Recy Taylor—a story that reinterprets the history of America's civil rights movement in terms of the sexual violence committed against black women by white men. 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 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—Rosa Parks—to Abbeville. In taking on this case, Parks launched a movement that exposed a ritualized history of sexual assault against black women and added fire to the growing call for change.


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Groundbreaking, controversial, and courageous, here is the story of Rosa Parks and Recy Taylor—a story that reinterprets the history of America's civil rights movement in terms of the sexual violence committed against black women by white men. Rosa Parks was often described as a sweet and reticent elderly woman whose tired feet caused her to defy segregation on Montgomery’ Groundbreaking, controversial, and courageous, here is the story of Rosa Parks and Recy Taylor—a story that reinterprets the history of America's civil rights movement in terms of the sexual violence committed against black women by white men. 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 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—Rosa Parks—to Abbeville. In taking on this case, Parks launched a movement that exposed a ritualized history of sexual assault against black women and added fire to the growing call for change.

30 review for 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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Larry

    Imagine being a woman. A woman with 23 children. Now imagine that 20 of those children are the result of being raped. Imagine that your daughter is so fearful of being attacked, too, that she routinely carries a pistol with her when she works outside. Imagine further that her daughter, your granddaughter, is arrested, beaten bloody and naked by law enforcement for peaceably protesting that culture of violence. Such has been the life of the Southern black women, and this book does a remarkable jo Imagine being a woman. A woman with 23 children. Now imagine that 20 of those children are the result of being raped. Imagine that your daughter is so fearful of being attacked, too, that she routinely carries a pistol with her when she works outside. Imagine further that her daughter, your granddaughter, is arrested, beaten bloody and naked by law enforcement for peaceably protesting that culture of violence. Such has been the life of the Southern black women, and this book does a remarkable job of vividly documenting what is really just the tip of the iceberg, just the most notorious, the most historical cases. Having read a great deal about the Civil War and the Southern slave culture, I have also found myself following up by reading on life in the South after the war ended. This is a very important book in detailing a critical part of that history and deserves our attention. Highly recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    This is a very important book. It is also an extremely depressing and upsetting book, but they go hand in hand, right? In reexamining the civil rights movement through the lens of sexual abuse of black women by white men in the South, McGuire challenges the prevailing wisdom of a number of commonly accepted historical narratives: the growth of the CRM at large and especially Rosa Parks's role, the gendered violence of the white backlash, and the courageous resistance of black women in the Jim Cr This is a very important book. It is also an extremely depressing and upsetting book, but they go hand in hand, right? In reexamining the civil rights movement through the lens of sexual abuse of black women by white men in the South, McGuire challenges the prevailing wisdom of a number of commonly accepted historical narratives: the growth of the CRM at large and especially Rosa Parks's role, the gendered violence of the white backlash, and the courageous resistance of black women in the Jim Crow South decades before the Second Wave dragged the issue of rape into the public eye nationally. Read this.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Shauna

    The subtitle should be noted: "Black Women, Rape, and Resistance--A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power" I'm only about 20 pages in, but so far the stories being told are devastating and, frankly, rage inducing. It's interesting seeing a focus on women in teh civil rights movement, and also cool learning the real back story of Rosa Parks. She wasn't just some woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus because she was tired, as they teach you i The subtitle should be noted: "Black Women, Rape, and Resistance--A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power" I'm only about 20 pages in, but so far the stories being told are devastating and, frankly, rage inducing. It's interesting seeing a focus on women in teh civil rights movement, and also cool learning the real back story of Rosa Parks. She wasn't just some woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus because she was tired, as they teach you in school; she had been active in the civil rights movement for a good portion of her life.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Katrina

    Did you know that in her early forties when she refused to give up her seat? Did you know that she was the local NAACP best investigator? Did you know that she was the driving force behind numerous sexual abuse cases throughout the south BEFORE the 1955 bus boycotts even began? In taking on these cases, Parks launched a movement that ultimately changed the world. In this book, McGuire challenges the prevailing wisdom of a number of commonly accepted historical narratives: especially Rosa Parks's Did you know that in her early forties when she refused to give up her seat? Did you know that she was the local NAACP best investigator? Did you know that she was the driving force behind numerous sexual abuse cases throughout the south BEFORE the 1955 bus boycotts even began? In taking on these cases, Parks launched a movement that ultimately changed the world. In this book, McGuire challenges the prevailing wisdom of a number of commonly accepted historical narratives: especially Rosa Parks's role. Generally knows as an elderly woman who just wanted a place to sit and rest her tired feet. The truth of who Rosa Parks was and what really lay beneath the 1955 bus boycott is far different from anything you’ve ever been told. This is a groundbreaking and very important book. McGuire writes about a history that most of us will have never heard before. How the South used white fear of miscegenation and black-on-white rape to keep Jim Crow and white supremists in power even though white-on-black rape was far more common and the children of these rapes covered the south. How the civil rights movement began and was fuelled by the sexual abuse of black women and their courage to stand up and demand the nation’s attention and respect.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    The image of Rosa Parks as a sweet, quietly heroic elderly seamstress does her a great disservice. In the 1940s, she was the NAACP's best investigator in cases of African-American women raped by white men as part of their campaign of terror, as crucial to controlling the local population as cross burning and arson. This woman was not a patient saint but a vital hellraiser whose work was subsumed in the larger political decision to highlight civil rights crimes against men.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Riah

    This is an incredibly important book that I definitely recommend reading, even though it can be hard to read so many descriptions of white men raping black women in brutal and awful ways and facing minimal to no consequences. Danielle McGuire (who I knew when she was a student of my dad's at UW) tells an incredibly powerful story of the ways black women's resistance to rape and sexual assault laid the foundation for the civil rights movement, which we so often frame as a movement led by men. I b This is an incredibly important book that I definitely recommend reading, even though it can be hard to read so many descriptions of white men raping black women in brutal and awful ways and facing minimal to no consequences. Danielle McGuire (who I knew when she was a student of my dad's at UW) tells an incredibly powerful story of the ways black women's resistance to rape and sexual assault laid the foundation for the civil rights movement, which we so often frame as a movement led by men. I believe they also laid the foundation for the Me Too movement (a term that was originally coined by Tarana Burke, another black woman speaking up about sexual violence). Starting with Recy Taylor, who was gang raped by 6 white men in 1944, and following the story through Joan Little, who killed a white jailer who tried to sexually assault her in 1975, McGuire makes absolutely clear how much risk it took for the black women whose stories she tells to speak out, press charges and testify about their sexual assault in the courts of the white supremacist south. Seeing the very, very gradual progress that the women and their supporters make in getting justice over the course of the book is definitely satisfying, but the fact that each woman faces the same opposition and uncertainty and that the assault keep happening is infuriating. While this is only an argument that McGuire mentions briefly in the book, reading it in this moment of Me Too makes it absolutely clear how much white women also owe to these black women's willingness to speak openly about their rapes and assaults. These women's courage laid the foundation not only for the civil rights movement, but also for today's silence breakers pushing back against sexual assault. We need to remember the black women behind both of these movements and give them the credit and historical recognition they deserve. Reading this book is part of that.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This book must come with a trigger warning as it includes descriptions of sexual violence. But the stories were incredibly compelling to my students who all said it was the most impactful book they read this year. The arc of the story goes from an terrible gang rape in the 1940s where the perpetrators were let go to the 1970s when a woman in jail killed the guard who was assaulting her and was acquitted (she had been on trial for the death penalty). The book sets black women at the center of the This book must come with a trigger warning as it includes descriptions of sexual violence. But the stories were incredibly compelling to my students who all said it was the most impactful book they read this year. The arc of the story goes from an terrible gang rape in the 1940s where the perpetrators were let go to the 1970s when a woman in jail killed the guard who was assaulting her and was acquitted (she had been on trial for the death penalty). The book sets black women at the center of the civil rights and demonstrates how white men assaulting black women in all sorts of ways was at the center of so much of their concerns. Long before white women were front-lining sexual harassment, black women were testifying and taking all the hits as their reputations were shredded on the stand they and their families dealt with reprisals. It puts sexual autonomy at the center of civil rights. It does have a positive arc to its story, ending with some triumph. But my students were quick to point out that many of these issues are still with us, for all women, even if they are worse for women of color.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Q

    This is the best book I've read all year. The civil rights movement is often told with a few main characters, these characters are always men and even their stories have been whitewashed to fit a narrative that seeks to erase a history that still cuts deep into the current American psyche. In this book McGuire highlights, magnificently, the abuse, violence and humiliation that black women had to suffer at the hands of white men in the southern states of America but also details how it was these This is the best book I've read all year. The civil rights movement is often told with a few main characters, these characters are always men and even their stories have been whitewashed to fit a narrative that seeks to erase a history that still cuts deep into the current American psyche. In this book McGuire highlights, magnificently, the abuse, violence and humiliation that black women had to suffer at the hands of white men in the southern states of America but also details how it was these same black women that turned their pain into a movement that is often overlooked. I always find it a little bit of a slap in the face when I realise just how much history is carefully portrayed to us, and no matter how high you go up in the academic ladder the dominant narrative normally stays the same. I can't speak highly enough of this book for telling the stories of black women and further opening my eyes to understanding that we can never let the dominant narrative be the only one heard.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Les

    As much non-fiction as I read, it takes a lot to shock me. This did. I can no longer take someone who considers themselves a buff of Civil Rights and Women's Movements seriously if they've not factored this in. It ends somewhat short of the rise of the Black Power movement and the epilogue is sad. Worth it for the truth it unearths and illuminates. Rosa Parks is much celebrated, yet some of her most amazing work is unsung.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Carly

    In her book, 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 re-tells the history of the Civil Rights Movement with a focus on the role of gender. Realizing the popularity of the male-centered canonical versions of African-American’s struggles which mainly focus on the struggle between black and white men (as in males), McGuire highlights the role of rape and sexual violenc In her book, 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 re-tells the history of the Civil Rights Movement with a focus on the role of gender. Realizing the popularity of the male-centered canonical versions of African-American’s struggles which mainly focus on the struggle between black and white men (as in males), McGuire highlights the role of rape and sexual violence as the primary/underlying mode of oppression. This focus sheds light on how not only race but also gender were fundamental in the struggle for equal rights: “If we understand the role rape and sexual violence played in African American’s daily lives and within the larger freedom struggle, we have to reinterpret, if not rewrite, the history of the civil rights movement. At the Dark End of the Street does both” (xx). In her brilliant storytelling manner, she achieves just this though describing several accounts of how women both catalyzed and propelled the Civil Rights Movement forward. Using the Recy Taylor story as bookends to her text, McGuire highlights several other lesser-known female figures (in other words, important female figures that male-centered history tends to overshadow) like the bus boycott recall mastermind Jo Ann Robinson or Gertrude Perkins who was attacked on the street by police officers. While the book demonstrates how these women were vital in the movement’s progress, McGuire also offers a more in-depth and alternative view of more famous figures like Rosa Parks. McGuire’s attention to Park’s upbringing and circumstances surrounding her famous bus protest shed new light on how she was able to use her own power to defend her human rights. This new view also is divorced from the “King-centric” view that is so popular in most history textbooks. McGuire shows that it was women like Parks and Jo Ann Robinson who started the Montgomery Bus boycott, while male figures like Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. were more the voice to the people, rather than the brains behind and the founders of the boycott. I found the author’s argument very convincing because of her excellent usage of primary resources and brilliant way of adapting the facts into a story-like document. Her character development, gathered by the facts contained in her research, formed a powerful new image of the atrocities and struggles African American women went though during the Civil Rights Movement. While I really enjoyed the segment on Rosa Parks, beginning on page 95, I began to question McGuire’s motives in depicting her famous bus incident as “unplanned.” McGuire asserts this despite the fact that the driver was the same man from 1944 who mistreated her, despite the fact that Parks was deeply involved in the nuts and bolts of many organizations looking for a poster woman for the Civil Rights Movement, and despite her being the most perfect candidate for the role. While I trust McGuire’s expertise in the matter, she does not explain why it is so important that Parks did the act without planning it. In my mind, it would have made just as big of an impact on the movement if it were planned, and also shown Park’s powerful character as one who seeks out justice from those who mistreat others (or herself in 1944). Another section or point that was missing from the argument was that while McGuire asserts that the violence against African American women propelled African American men to protect them and by extension fight for their human rights, McGuire doesn’t discuss how this in turn makes women subordinate to men by them needing to be “protected.” If McGuire really wants to bring the gender argument home, I would think this point would at least be mentioned somewhere in the body of the text. Also, this thought is extremely heteronormative, and it would have been nice to see examples of other sexualities during the Civil Rights Movement in her book. In sum, this new view of the Civil Rights Movement presented by McGuire is vital to the understanding of the movement. The tragic historical overshadowing of the women highlighted in her book is a crime! I hope that future generations not only read this book and realize the horrible male-centricity of canonical history, but then also take that knowledge and construct a more gender balanced history in new textbooks.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

    A brilliant and distressing book, and a needed one - a must-read for anyone interested in human rights, women's history, race, and justice. One knows going in that there's likely little of the latter to be found, but story after story still evokes anger and shock. McGuire does a wonderful job of fleshing out the stories of well-known but misrepresented activists like Rosa Parks, often remembered as the weary woman too tired to give up her seat on a bus - an almost accidental symbol - rather than A brilliant and distressing book, and a needed one - a must-read for anyone interested in human rights, women's history, race, and justice. One knows going in that there's likely little of the latter to be found, but story after story still evokes anger and shock. McGuire does a wonderful job of fleshing out the stories of well-known but misrepresented activists like Rosa Parks, often remembered as the weary woman too tired to give up her seat on a bus - an almost accidental symbol - rather than the fiery, lifelong activist she was. Other figures like Recy Taylor, Claudette Colvin, and Jo Ann Robinson are given proper recognition; these are women who survived unimaginable violence and injustice to spend their lives devoted to a struggle for change, and who refused to let their humanity be ignored. American history has few truly heroic figures, but there are certainly many to be found among these women. "A black woman's body was never hers alone." Importantly, McGuire ties in the under-explored and often untouchable subject of the underlying roles rape, sex, and gender played in racism and the civil rights movement, with the threat of black rape of white women used as a shield for the very real and unchecked epidemic of white men raping black women and murdering black men, often with no consequences whatsoever, and no protection offered to victims. It was sexual abuse and violence against women that first unified the civil rights movement, leading to the Montgomery bus boycott and some of the first court victories securing legal protection for black Americans against racial violence. However, women's roles in the movement were obscured almost immediately, both by the press and by the male leaders themselves. I was thinking of this while re-reading Roxane Gay's essay about The Help: http://therumpus.net/2011/08/the-sola... Gay speaks powerfully to what is left out of the modern narrative of the Jim Crow south - that things may have been bad, yes, but that's the way things were; it was another time, with as many good guys as bad guys. Such narratives, though, barely skim the surface of the true horrors of the time - in this case, 1960s Mississippi, an era and state covered in detail in At the Dark End of the Street - erasing voices like Parks's, Colvin's, and Taylor's for a feel-good story about the growth of a white protagonist. Truly, for the average American, these stories have to be sought out, as they are otherwise utterly obscured or, dangerously, forgotten. It's a tough read, yes - one of the toughest I've read in awhile; there is no redeeming what was allowed to happen, no happy conclusion, but there is inspiration to be found in women who refused to let their humanity be stolen from them in the face of terrorism that seems so unimaginable. One can't help but see, though, how much of this legacy continues in the present day, and how high the cost of forgetting can be. There's still so much more to be done.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Drick

    This the most important book on Civil rights history I have read in a long time. Danielle McGuire presents a revised history of the CR movement, placing African American women at the center of the story. Rosa Parks i re-presented as a courageous activist, who 10 years before the Montgomery (AL) bus boycott for which she became famous was doing investigative work for the NAACP of the brutal rape of Recy Taylor by four white men. McGuire's re-telling highlights the consistent sexual assault and ra This the most important book on Civil rights history I have read in a long time. Danielle McGuire presents a revised history of the CR movement, placing African American women at the center of the story. Rosa Parks i re-presented as a courageous activist, who 10 years before the Montgomery (AL) bus boycott for which she became famous was doing investigative work for the NAACP of the brutal rape of Recy Taylor by four white men. McGuire's re-telling highlights the consistent sexual assault and rape of black women by white men, while the white community portrayed black women as sexual promiscuous and black men as sexual predators against white women. In detail that was sometimes painful to read ( I had to put the book down on several occasions) she shows the pivotal role that black women played in the Civil Rights struggle that is all too often portrayed as the work being led by black men. For anyone interst in feminist history or a fuller picture of Civil rights history this book is a must. It is exhaustingly researched and well written

  13. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    [Trigger warning: Rape, misogynoir] This book is a fascinating, necessary history of the role activism for & by Black women played in the civil rights movement - and how it’s missing from the narrative. It took me several weeks to read & I learned so much. The book starts with Black women like Rosa Parks fighting for justice for Recy Taylor, a Black woman who was raped by white men in the 40s. McGuire outlines how the activism surrounding the case laid the groundwork for later success for the Mon [Trigger warning: Rape, misogynoir] This book is a fascinating, necessary history of the role activism for & by Black women played in the civil rights movement - and how it’s missing from the narrative. It took me several weeks to read & I learned so much. The book starts with Black women like Rosa Parks fighting for justice for Recy Taylor, a Black woman who was raped by white men in the 40s. McGuire outlines how the activism surrounding the case laid the groundwork for later success for the Montgomery bus boycott. I learned a LOT about the various roles sex played in the civil rights movement. A sick fear of interracial sex was used as a weapon of white segregationists who would then rape & assault Black women largely w impunity. This book was difficult to read at times bc of the horrific assaults detailed but it never felt gratuitous & treated the women with dignity. AT THE DARK END OF THE STREET was incredibly helpful in understanding how we got to where we are - and the continued importance of centering Black women in our fights for justice.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    Really fascinating history of the Civil Rights movement to read right now during the #metoo movement. It places black women's fight against sexual abuse at the heart of the Civil Rights struggle and it makes a very convincing case that this fight was the very heart of the movement. I loved reading about the radical leadership of Rosa Parks before she was transformed in the name of respectability politics and how by the end of the decade, even rape of a prisoner was taken seriously. An important Really fascinating history of the Civil Rights movement to read right now during the #metoo movement. It places black women's fight against sexual abuse at the heart of the Civil Rights struggle and it makes a very convincing case that this fight was the very heart of the movement. I loved reading about the radical leadership of Rosa Parks before she was transformed in the name of respectability politics and how by the end of the decade, even rape of a prisoner was taken seriously. An important book--especially now.

  15. 4 out of 5

    S.

    Like any book that includes the word "rape" in the title, this book is an ordeal to read. But it's well worth it. It's a side of the Civil Rights Movement that doesn't get much attention. Only within the past few years did I realize that rape was a huge part of slavery (it seems blatantly obvious now). Before I started reading this book, I had no idea that white men gang raping black women had a large role in Jim Crow.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Punk

    A history of the civil rights movement from 1940-1975 that centers African American women, their activism, and the sexual violence levied against them by whites. It emphasizes the ways in which sexism and sexual violence were integral to the success, power, and maintenance of white supremacy, and how the fight against this sexual terror built the foundation of the modern civil rights movement. McGuire argues, in part, that the Montgomery bus boycott wasn't the start of the modern civil rights mo A history of the civil rights movement from 1940-1975 that centers African American women, their activism, and the sexual violence levied against them by whites. It emphasizes the ways in which sexism and sexual violence were integral to the success, power, and maintenance of white supremacy, and how the fight against this sexual terror built the foundation of the modern civil rights movement. McGuire argues, in part, that the Montgomery bus boycott wasn't the start of the modern civil rights movement, but rather a culmination of the efforts of African American women and their fight for bodily integrity. McGuire's prose is clear and accessible, and if not for the brutal subject matter, it would be very easy to read. There are a few times it needed additional detail or historical context for clarity, and some important information is only found in the end notes when it should have been incorporated into the text. She also doesn't always immediately identify people as black or white, leaving the reader to guess based on the facts at hand, a game I didn't enjoy at all, and one that needlessly obscures the purpose of this history. But, outside of these minor issues, the work is meticulously documented and sourced, with original interviews, diligent end notes, and a thorough bibliography and index. The black and white photos included in the text are indexed at the front with descriptions and sources and have captions in the text. It's very well done, making this book a solid history and a fantastic resource for further reading. Contains: descriptions of rape and gang rape; sexual assault of children; sexualized violence; descriptions of lynching; racism, racial slurs (including the n-word, quoted); misogynistic language; animal harm; forced sterilization; violence toward pregnant women.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    One of the two or three most important books about the Civil Rights Movement. Reconsidering the (overly and deceptively) familiar story, At the Dark End of the Street places the experience of African American community at the center of the narrative to show that sexual violence against black women was as important as the battles for equal rights and desegregation which have received the lion's share of attention from historians. McGuire, who writes beautifully, redefines our understanding of maj One of the two or three most important books about the Civil Rights Movement. Reconsidering the (overly and deceptively) familiar story, At the Dark End of the Street places the experience of African American community at the center of the narrative to show that sexual violence against black women was as important as the battles for equal rights and desegregation which have received the lion's share of attention from historians. McGuire, who writes beautifully, redefines our understanding of major campaigns like the Montgomery Bus Boycott, emphasizing the fact that Rosa Parks had been engaged in activism on issues of sexual violence for a decade before she became the symbolic centerpiece of CRM history. A major contribution to the "New Civil Rights History" pioneered by John Dettmer, Charles Payne, Barbara Ransby and Timothy Tyson, At the Dark End of the Street didn't receive the attention it deserved when it was published, in large part because it's not comfortable reading. It's easier to ignore sexual violence and white supremacy than to confront them, but McGuire's book makes that a little harder to do. Absolutely required reading for anyone who's serious about understanding American history.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Morgan Dhu

    Danielle L. McGuire’s book At The Dark End of the Street, subtitled Black Women, Rape, and Resistance–A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power, looks at the role of black women’s resistance to sexual violence at the hands of white men in the history of the civil rights movement. As she notes in her Introduction: “And yet analyses of rape and sexualized violence play little or no role in most histories of the civil rights movement, which present it as a Danielle L. McGuire’s book At The Dark End of the Street, subtitled Black Women, Rape, and Resistance–A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power, looks at the role of black women’s resistance to sexual violence at the hands of white men in the history of the civil rights movement. As she notes in her Introduction: “And yet analyses of rape and sexualized violence play little or no role in most histories of the civil rights movement, which present it as a struggle between black and white men—the heroic leadership of Martin Luther King confronting intransigent white supremacists like “Bull” Connor. The real story—that the civil rights movement is also rooted in African-American women’s long struggle against sexual violence—has never before been written. The stories of black women who fought for bodily integrity and personal dignity hold profound truths about the sexualized violence that marked racial politics and African American lives during the modern civil rights movement. If we understand the role rape and sexual violence played in African Americans’ daily lives and within the larger freedom struggle, we have to reinterpret, if not rewrite, the history of the civil rights movement.” In her landmark book, McGuire focuses on the history of black women and sexual violence in Montgomery, Alabama - the home of icon and activist Rosa Parks and in some ways the birthplace of the civil rights movement in the South - where in 1944, Recy Taylor’s speaking out about her rape made headlines and brought Parks, then a NAACP worker, to nearby Abbeville to investigate the case. Using Montgomery as a case study for her thesis, McGuire follows the stories of sexual violence and the response of the black community, particularly black women - but she makes it clear that Montgomery is hardly an anomaly, that such race-based sexual violence was and is endemic in America. “Montgomery, Alabama, was not the only place in which attacks on black women fueled protests against white supremacy. Between 1940 and 1975, sexual violence and interracial rape became one crucial battleground upon which African Americans sought to destroy white supremacy and gain personal and political autonomy. Civil rights campaigns in Little Rock, Arkansas; Macon, Georgia; Tallahassee, Florida; Washington, North Carolina; Birmingham and Selma, Alabama; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; and many other places had roots in organized resistance to sexual violence and appeals for protection of black womanhood.” While her focus in examining black activism in response to sexual violence is on the harassment and rape of black women, uncounted numbers of whom were victims of white men who were never punished, McGuire does not ignore the way that accusations of gendered violence were used against black men, thousands of whom were falsely accused of offenses against white women and, if they escaped lynching, found it nearly impossible to convince the courts of their innocence. However, her central narrative is clear in connecting the growing outrage at the numerous incidents of black women abducted and raped by white men with the impetus to activism. Years before the assault on Recy Taylor, the cause of the Scottsboro nine - nine black youths convicted of raping two white women - brought together black civil rights activists and white progressives to fight for justice; Taylor’s case galvanised protest and resulted in the formation of organisations whose activities would expand and persist. Despite their best efforts, it proved impossible to win convictions against Taylor’s rapists, who either denied their involvement, or alleged that she was a known prostitute whom they had paid. But the movement went on to take up the cases of other black women, and to broadcast information about these assaults across the country. Aside from entrenched racism and the belief that the rape of black women was not really a crime, the progressives and activists involved in fighting for equal justice faced serious opposition from another direction: the cold war fear of Communist ‘infiltrtion’ and McCarthyism. Many of those, white and black, who took up the cause of equal justice for blacks were, or had t one time been, involved in groups that the government had identified as communist. In some cases, so many members of civil rights organisations were also linked to socialist or communist groups, that the FBI considered them as Communist fronts. This led to their civil rights positions and actions being discounted as Russian propaganda intended to destabilise and discredit the U.S. Yet on the other hand, the post-war era had seen many black veterans returning from the theatres in Europe and the Pacific, changed by their participation in the war against fascism. These former soldiers “...returned home with a new sense of pride and purpose and often led campaigns for citizenship rights, legal equality, and bodily integrity. In small towns and cities across the South, black veterans became the “shock troops” of an emerging civil rights movement.” In the mythology of the civil rights movement, the spark is Rosa Park’s refusal to move to the back of a Montgomery bus. Parks is often portrayed as a woman who simply was too tired, and snapped one day. In reality, the organising had begun years before, around the far more complex issue of violence against blacks, and particularly sexual violence against black women. McGuire draws the connections between this focus and the bus protests. Most working black women could not afford cars; to get to their places of work - many were domestic workers who lived far from the homes of their employers - they had to ride the buses. But the indignities did not end at having to sit at the back of the bus. Black people were often subjected to verbal and physical assault for the slightest indication of disrespect. They could be required to pay at the front, then get off and board at the rear doors - unless the bus driver decided to drive off without them. Bus drivers sometimes beat black riders who sat in the wrong seats, or refused to get up and move further back, or get off if a seat was needed for a white person. The buses were a site of white violence toward blacks. McGuire’s narrative of the Montgomery bus boycott, and other actions undertaken during the civil rights era to bring public pressure to bear on the rampant discrimination and racism of the Southern US, restore to its place the forgotten role of black women. Parks was not the first black woman to refuse to give up her seat or defend herself in court; she was just the first woman with a sufficiently impeccable reputation to risk a national news event on. Much of the organising and fundraising during the boycott was done by women. Women organised car pools and drove cars. And in the thousands, women walked, or shared rides, rather than break the boycott, in the face of daiky threats and abuse. Women were charged and arrested for their roles in the boycott, but the media narrative focused on the male ministers, and above all, on the charismatic young Martin Luther King Jr. in making him the hero of the movement, the work of black women was pushed into shadows. Women were active, organising, marching, working on voter registration, desegregating lunch counters and schools, their work and courage the backbone of the civil rights movement. Women like Jo Ann Robinson and Fannie Lou Hamer gave tirelessly of their energy and time in the movement. Like the men, they risked harassment, loss of employment, beatings, jail, destructions of property snd homes through vandalism and arson, and death. They also risked sexual intimidation, humiliation and rape. McGuire spares the reader none of the details of the brutal acts that shored up white supremacy, the beatings, rapes, torturings, deliberate mutilations, and murders of black men, women and children for the slightest of imagined offences against the “proper order” of society, for being “uppity” or indeed for no reason at all other than the fear, insecurity and rage of white people. McGuire writes about the civil rights era, the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, but the reader cannot forget, as the horrifying images emerge from the page, that the violence continues.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    If you're going to read one book by a white woman about black women, this should be the one (rather than, you know, that other one*, which is not only fiction, it's complete fiction). At the Dark End of the Street is one of the most enlightening books I've read on race and gender. I learned from this book that it's not possible to have a meaningful conversation about race without talking about gender, although many have been trying to do just that for a long time. As I read, I kept feeling a sens If you're going to read one book by a white woman about black women, this should be the one (rather than, you know, that other one*, which is not only fiction, it's complete fiction). At the Dark End of the Street is one of the most enlightening books I've read on race and gender. I learned from this book that it's not possible to have a meaningful conversation about race without talking about gender, although many have been trying to do just that for a long time. As I read, I kept feeling a sense of "Ohhhh, that explains it." At the Dark End of the Street provides much-needed illumination. * Referring here to The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which was getting a lot of attention at the time I wrote this review.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carly

    Essential reading. Should be required in all high schools. Intensely, compulsively readable from start to finish. Dedicated to the brave, formidable and powerfully vulnerable black women who shared (and continue to share) their stories of near-constant sexual abuse and white supremacist violence, and whose legacies should be more widely known, venerated and studied. It is a disservice to truth and justice that their histories are not universally acknowledged.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    During this US election year, one of the things I reflect on is the various ways the system which includes educational, political, social and media, keeps most topics in a small tight framework. This results in many Americans having shallow knowledge about American history and world geography. One of the ways this is evident is how Martin Luther King Jr is remembered and celebrated. I would wager that on the MLK holiday, most TV news programs use a clip from "I Have A Dream." This keeps King in During this US election year, one of the things I reflect on is the various ways the system which includes educational, political, social and media, keeps most topics in a small tight framework. This results in many Americans having shallow knowledge about American history and world geography. One of the ways this is evident is how Martin Luther King Jr is remembered and celebrated. I would wager that on the MLK holiday, most TV news programs use a clip from "I Have A Dream." This keeps King in a safe box. Can you imagine if one year all the news broadcast his "Beyond Vietnam" speech where he called the US "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world?" King got his start with the Montgomery Alabama bus boycott. Here too Americans are fed an incomplete, actually false story of a tired seamstress named Rosa Parks riding the bus after a long day at work, just too tired to give up her seat to a white man and kicking off the bus boycott led by Martin Luther King Jr. Danielle McGuire begins her book telling the story of Rosa Parks, a seasoned NAACP activist in 1944 who went to Abbeville Alabama to investigate the rape of Recy Taylor by four white men. She tells the story of how women organized and maintained the Montgomery bus boycott. She details how rape and sexual violence by white men against black women was part of keeping the status quo in the South. She writes the many ways black women spoke out against this violence, and were instrumental in both the civil rights movement and the women's movement. This is an important book to read, one which I think will expand the reader's understanding of the history of the struggle for equal rights. There are many examples of little known stories, impossible to list them all. Read the book! I regret the book is not better written. It began as a PhD dissertation and that shows. Nevertheless, the stories McGuire tells have sufficient power to illuminate and move readers.

  22. 5 out of 5

    C Lynn

    Riveting, in-depth look into the less told stories of the Civil Rights Movement, centering on African American women's fight for bodily integrity and justice. McGuire redirects 0ur vision of history by highlighting the voices and agency of Black women. She provides backstory on Rosa Parks, tells a woman-centric story of the Montgomery bus boycott, discusses Recy Taylor and many African American women raped by white men without seeing justice, and describes in detail the cases -such as that of Ro Riveting, in-depth look into the less told stories of the Civil Rights Movement, centering on African American women's fight for bodily integrity and justice. McGuire redirects 0ur vision of history by highlighting the voices and agency of Black women. She provides backstory on Rosa Parks, tells a woman-centric story of the Montgomery bus boycott, discusses Recy Taylor and many African American women raped by white men without seeing justice, and describes in detail the cases -such as that of Rosa Lee Coates- the first time a white man was given a life sentence for raping a Black woman- where justice was gained a bit at a time, ending with the acquittal of Joan Little for the self-defense killing of her white rapist with an ice pick. McGuire points out that African American women were speaking out about rape long, long before the consciousness-raising circles of white feminism. Across several decades, she demonstrates the importance of sexualized racial rhetoric in legitimating white supremacy, where hysterical fears of racial integration were used to fuel segregationist policies and white terrorism in Black communities. And she highlights the cruel irony that the staunchest segregationists engaged in illicit "integration," using the bodies of Black women by force, while defending white womanhood from the specter of the Black male rapist. A truly powerful book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andre

    The most salient part of this book is the perspective. The look at the beginnings of the civil rights movement from the eyes of Black women, who are often pushed to the margins in historical works, was a welcome addition to the civil rights historical canon. Because Ms. McGuire centered her book in this way, the reader will learn the names of women here, that contributed mightily to the struggle for not only civil rights but human dignity. For those who have read little history, you will find in The most salient part of this book is the perspective. The look at the beginnings of the civil rights movement from the eyes of Black women, who are often pushed to the margins in historical works, was a welcome addition to the civil rights historical canon. Because Ms. McGuire centered her book in this way, the reader will learn the names of women here, that contributed mightily to the struggle for not only civil rights but human dignity. For those who have read little history, you will find information about icons like Rosa Parks that goes beyond the standard high school fare. Other historical figures will be properly placed, as to their roles in pivotal events like the Montgomery Bus boycott. And for the well versed in civil rights history, much of this may be familiar ground. Claudette Colvin is certainly a familiar name for this crowd, however I doubt Rosa Lee Ingram is similiarly intimate. It is the stories of these women, that become the launching point for discussions around sexual terrorism that makes this book well worth the investment. I don't think we understand how deeply the lives of Black families were impacted by sexual terrorism, At The Dark End of the Street, does a very good job of illuminating the horror. This one should be added to your collection!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Whit

    Enjoyed the content and the history, but wish that it had been done by a better writer, or even by the same writing, but after she outlined the book before writing. It was incredibly well-researched, SO much detailed information, but it read like the author took all the facts and research she did, threw them in a bag, and just grabbed at random to stick in the book. The stories did not follow a chronology or a theme (other than fighting racism, of course), so there was no driving element. Rosa P Enjoyed the content and the history, but wish that it had been done by a better writer, or even by the same writing, but after she outlined the book before writing. It was incredibly well-researched, SO much detailed information, but it read like the author took all the facts and research she did, threw them in a bag, and just grabbed at random to stick in the book. The stories did not follow a chronology or a theme (other than fighting racism, of course), so there was no driving element. Rosa Parks was a part of the book, but not the central part of the story so the title felt deceiving. I will say that it was a good book club book--it led to a lot of discussion about current and past race issues. And you didn't need to have read the entire book in order to be a solid part of the discussion.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    One of the books I'm most glad to have found this year. This book was extremely difficult to read in parts; it needs a strong trigger warning for graphic discussion of rape and the way it was an explicit tool of the anti-rights white South in the 1960s and 1970s. It deserves five stars and more for that discussion, and for the way it uncovers and retells this story, and for the way it reclaims Rosa Parks' activist history from the specter of the mild, tired lady with sore feet whom we're told ab One of the books I'm most glad to have found this year. This book was extremely difficult to read in parts; it needs a strong trigger warning for graphic discussion of rape and the way it was an explicit tool of the anti-rights white South in the 1960s and 1970s. It deserves five stars and more for that discussion, and for the way it uncovers and retells this story, and for the way it reclaims Rosa Parks' activist history from the specter of the mild, tired lady with sore feet whom we're told about in grade school. I'm choosing to give it four stars because I was bothered in a kind of intangible way by how the (white) author chose to transcribe some of the testimony she was given by black women she interviewed - the way their words alone were spelled phonetically bothered me.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jade C. Jamison

    Such a well-written book--quite enlightening. A friend of mine lent it to me because we were discussing race issues. Being white, I am an ally and a supporter of people of color, and I empathize and advocate for their causes, but I cannot ever truly understand what black people (especially women) have gone through or continue to go through, because I haven't been part of a marginalized group. This book opened my eyes to much of what happened in the twentieth century. The Civil Rights movement di Such a well-written book--quite enlightening. A friend of mine lent it to me because we were discussing race issues. Being white, I am an ally and a supporter of people of color, and I empathize and advocate for their causes, but I cannot ever truly understand what black people (especially women) have gone through or continue to go through, because I haven't been part of a marginalized group. This book opened my eyes to much of what happened in the twentieth century. The Civil Rights movement didn't begin with Rosa Parks on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama--it began long before. This book simply reminded me of the struggle blacks continue to face in America and reinforces the need for all of us to be aware and vigilant. I highly recommend!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    Very informative. It makes me remember that history is usually decided and remembered from the point of view of its authors, not necessarily based in fact. It was wonderful to get some factual and historical confirmantion on the important and leading role black woman played before and during the civil rights movement and how black woman lead the activism against sexual assault decades before white women. I think this a must read for everyone, but especially black women interested a historical pe Very informative. It makes me remember that history is usually decided and remembered from the point of view of its authors, not necessarily based in fact. It was wonderful to get some factual and historical confirmantion on the important and leading role black woman played before and during the civil rights movement and how black woman lead the activism against sexual assault decades before white women. I think this a must read for everyone, but especially black women interested a historical perspecitve on the fight for our bodily integrity.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    I love how Danielle McGuire has put women's struggle against sexual violence and rape front and center of the freedom struggle. Where it always was, though never enough acknowledged. She says it more eloquently than I could: The real story--that the civil rights movement is also rooted in African-American women's long struggle against sexual violence--has never before been written. The stories of black women who fought for bodily integrity and personal dignity hold profound truths about the sexua I love how Danielle McGuire has put women's struggle against sexual violence and rape front and center of the freedom struggle. Where it always was, though never enough acknowledged. She says it more eloquently than I could: The real story--that the civil rights movement is also rooted in African-American women's long struggle against sexual violence--has never before been written. The stories of black women who fought for bodily integrity and personal dignity hold profound truths about the sexualized violence that marked racial politics and African American lives during the modern civil rights movement. If we understand the role rape and sexual violence played in African Americans' daily lives and within the larger freedom struggle, we have to reinterpret, if not rewrite, the history of the civil rights movement. At the End of the Street does both. (xx) I have been reading and reading and reading...so much reading. And yet Danielle McGuire has brought together so much I didn't know. Through Septima Clark and Ella Baker I've come to know Rosa Parks a little better, but I never knew that as part of her work for the NAACP she was sent to investigate reports of rape. On a trip to Abbeville, her hometown, she helped document and fight with Recy Taylor -- kidnapped at gunpoint as she walked home with her family, and raped by all four men before being left in the woods. My heart, oh my heart broke to read so many stories of white men openly kidnapping black women to rape them, and even on the rare occasions it came to trial, no one was ever sentenced. Still. Rosa Parks helped set up the Committee for Equal Justice, a network of groups started up in support of Recy Taylor's case. It built on some of the frameworks established to help the defense of the Scottsboro Boys. The National Negro Congress held a mass meeting in Harlem to discuss the case -- and my own well-studied and well-loved California Eagle was there among multiple other black-owned papers. I'm sure it was Charlotta Bass herself, I need to look through her autobiography to see if she mentions it. Of course, despite (actually, probably because) it was white men raping black women with impunity, it was the reverse scenario that invoked terror: Unsubstantiated rumors of black men attacking innocent white women sparked almost 50 percent of all race riots in the United States between Reconstruction and World War II. In 1943 alone there were 242 violent interracial clashes in forty-seven cities. (26) Then back we come to the importance of this in understanding the civil rights movement: Only by understanding the long and relatively hidden history of sexualized violence in Montgomery, Alabama, and African Americans' efforts to protect black womanhood, can we see that the Montgomery Bus Boycott was more than a movement for civil rights. It was also a women's movement for dignity, respect and bodily integrity. (51) Just as the more background to this, there's the case of Willie McGee in Laurel, Mississippi, his white employer sleeping with him telling him if he didn't -- and if her ever broke it off -- she would cry rape. There's his wife's resignation to the situation, because what power did they have in such a situation? He was executed by the state after his employer did in fact call rape -- sentenced in 1945, all appeals lost by 1951. There's Maceo Snipes killed for being the only black man to vote in Georgia, on 17th July 1946. In Montgomery itself, in 1949 there was Gertrude Perkins picked up by two police officers at the bus stop, driven out of town, raped, returned to the bus stop. But Montgomery was well organised. McGuire describes Rufus A. Lewis -- WWII vet and football coach at Alabama State University, member of church and multiple association, owner of largest Black funeral home: he was financially independent and not easily intimidated by white economic reprisals. Lewis parlayed his social and economic wealth into a spacious brick clubhouse, named the Citizens Club. It functioned as the headquarters for many of the city's community organizations. Here Lewis taught veterans and others the ins and outs of voter registration and created a safe space where African Americans could "come and socialize" and, in the process, get politicized. (70) In every book about movement, spaces like this seem to be so important. Then there was the Women's Political Council, founded by Mary Fair Burks, working with Rufus Lewis's veterans group as well as E.D. Nixon's Progressive Democrats, who registered voters and ran classes. Jo Ann Robinson became its head, began to focus on the buses. They were connected to the group 'Sojourners for Truth and Justice', a short-lived but important organization formed by Louise Thomspon Patterson and Beulah Richardson issuing a call to women to convene in D.C. in support of Du Bois in 1951. They highlighted Rosa Lee Ingram's case, a single mother and sharecropper in Georgia. In 1947, a white man attempted to rape her while her two sons were present, and in the struggle the attacker was killed. All three were sentenced to death. They were paroled in 1959. Because of the work the Women's Political Council had already done on the buses, they were all ready to go when Rosa Parks made her stand. After hearing about her arrest they immediately called for a bus boycott for the following Monday, over the weekend they bundled, mimeographed and cut 52,500 flyers (holy jesus!) and distributed them. These women were awesome. The day-long boycott was a huge success, taking place the same day as Rosa appeared in court. I love this phrase, called out during the court hearing and taken up as a chant: 'they've messed with the wrong one now'. Almost immediately, however, the women were pushed out of leadership. Neither Rosa nor Jo Ann Robinson was allowed to be present at the meeting to form the Montgomery Improvement Association nor invited to be part of the leadership. At the 1st mass meeting Rosa Parks was seen but not heard, turned into a quiet respectable lady for the press, and removed from her activist past. McGuire writes: As long as WPC members handled the day-to-day business of the boycott, Jo Ann Robinson did not challenge the MIA's male leadership. "We felt it would be better," Robinson said, "if the ministers held the most visible leadership positions." (108) Like all my reviews, this is way too long...you can read the whole of it here.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Angela Gyurko

    In 1943, a young Alabama woman became a secretary at her local NAACP office. Her job? To interview women who were sexually assaulted by white men and record their stories. Her name was Rosa Parks. This book is the story of the thousands of young black women who pushed the Civil Rights Movement. When Recy Taylor of Abbeville, AL, was raped by 6 men, 4 of whom confessed, Rosa Parks did the initial investigation. So when Rosa Parks sat in the 5th row of that bus in 1955, she was 12 years into the s In 1943, a young Alabama woman became a secretary at her local NAACP office. Her job? To interview women who were sexually assaulted by white men and record their stories. Her name was Rosa Parks. This book is the story of the thousands of young black women who pushed the Civil Rights Movement. When Recy Taylor of Abbeville, AL, was raped by 6 men, 4 of whom confessed, Rosa Parks did the initial investigation. So when Rosa Parks sat in the 5th row of that bus in 1955, she was 12 years into the struggle. Jo Ann Robinson (a name I'm sure you never heard before) had the bus boycott flyer ready to go, and that night, she and 3 others hand-cranked 52,500 mimeograph flyers, passing them to her army of women volunteers to spread the word of the Montgomery bus boycott. Is this an easy read? No, but a necessary one. McGuire meticulously documents how much we all owe to the brave black women who told the stories of their rapes, paving the way for the white feminist movement decades later. Everyone needs to read this book. Go buy it now. Now.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Mishap

    An emotionally difficult but rewarding history book. McGuire proposes that the work Black women in the South did investigating sexual assaults and violence against their community provided the groundwork for the subsequent Civil Rights movement. Not only does this highlight women like Rosa Parks--a fearless and long-time advocate for women through her work investigating crimes for the NAACP--but also gives voice to the survivors of horrific sexual violence perpetrated by whites, abetted by a cor An emotionally difficult but rewarding history book. McGuire proposes that the work Black women in the South did investigating sexual assaults and violence against their community provided the groundwork for the subsequent Civil Rights movement. Not only does this highlight women like Rosa Parks--a fearless and long-time advocate for women through her work investigating crimes for the NAACP--but also gives voice to the survivors of horrific sexual violence perpetrated by whites, abetted by a corrupt racist "justice system." This book also confirms what we all know: while male figures and leaders receive the adulation and credit, it was women working behind the scenes and for years beforehand that laid the groundwork.

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