All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 1830-1900

All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 1830-1900

All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 1830-1900

All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 1830-1900

Synopsis

This volume explores the roles black women played in their communities' social movements and the consequences of elevating women into positions of visibility and leadership. Martha Jones reveals how, throughout the 19th century, the "woman question" was at the core of movements against slavery and for civil rights.

Excerpt

When African American poet and essayist Frances E. W. Harper took the podium during the inaugural meeting of the American Equal Rights Association, she spoke with both trepidation and conviction. Aiming to set forth a creed that might guide the fledgling women’s rights organization, Harper declared: “We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity.” the year was 1866, and the nation was in the midst of what Harper termed a “grand and glorious revolution.” in the wake of the Civil War, all Americans—especially those of African descent—were engaged in a highly charged debate over freedom, citizenship, and the nation itself. Harper argued that any endeavor to transform the standing of American women required consideration of society’s “weakest and feeblest” members alongside those individuals with their hands “across the helm.” in making her case, Harper drew upon her vantage point as a “colored woman” who, she explained, had felt every man’s hand against her, and hers against every man. Using the term “man” as a universal, Harper underscored how race and gender intersected in her experience of oppression.

Harper, a relative newcomer to public speaking, had recently endured a series of personal degradations. After the death of her husband, she explained, a neighbor attempted to seize the few possessions left to Harper and her four children. in this circumstance, Harper understood herself to be bound up with the fate of the many American women who were deprived of meaningful property rights. Harper then told the audience of the difficulties she encountered when searching for a new home. She felt unwelcome in the many cities that limited her access to streetcars and discriminated against her in the housing market—this had been the case even in Philadelphia, the “city of brotherly love,” and in Boston, where she finally settled. Thus, Harper cast herself as bound up with the burdens of blackness and the myriad injustices . . .

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