Prove It on Me: New Negroes, Sex, and Popular Culture in the 1920s

By Erin D. Chapman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Mothering the Race
New Negro Progressivism and the
Work of Racial Advancement

In the first issue of the National Urban League publication Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life, social worker Edith Sampson related some of her experiences in assisting families to provide proper care for their children. She told the story of “Annabelle” who was raised as the only poor black child in her relatively affluent, integrated Chicago suburb. Annabelle was unable to make friends with the white and black children around her because they “had had the advantage of much more education and contact with the world. They went to parties, occasionally to the movies, had nice clothes and above all the constant supervision of their parents.”1 Lacking these advantages because her mother worked as a maid and her father was “trifling,” Annabelle relied on her long-standing friendship with the white neighbor boy Joe. He “sympathized with her and urged her to place her confidence in him. Within a short time Annabelle suddenly realized that she was about to become a mother.”

Annabelle’s pregnancy became the object of a small dispute in the pages of the magazine. In continuing the narrative, Sampson related that Annabelle decided not to rely on her parents’ help but instead moved to the city and went to work to support herself. As her pregnancy advanced, she “got in touch with the Child Placing Society” and requested their services in providing for her during her confinement and in caring for her child. “Finally a lovely baby arrived and Annabelle knew that the child would have to be

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