Revolt against Chivalry: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women's Campaign against Lynching

Revolt against Chivalry: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women's Campaign against Lynching

Revolt against Chivalry: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women's Campaign against Lynching

Revolt against Chivalry: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women's Campaign against Lynching

Excerpt

This study began, as historical quests often do, at the end rather than the beginning. I originally set out to explore the genesis of the civil rights movement in the 1940s and 1950s. But intrigued by scattered references to an earlier women's campaign against lynching, I found myself pulled backward in time, away from contemporary black struggles and into a little known episode in the history of female reform. As I wandered into this new and, for me, quite unfamiliar territory, the starting point of my research continued to recede. In order to understand the social origins and assumptions of the women's anti-lynching campaign, it seemed, I must trace its roots in women's interracial activities in the 1920s. In order to comprehend the role of women in race relations reform in the 1920s, I must describe certain aspects of the pre-World War I suffrage movement, the battle for women's rights within the evangelical church, and the institution-building efforts of black women. Eventually my story stretched from the late Victorian era to the watershed of the Second World War.

From the outset, my interest in the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching focused on questions of consciousness. Here was a voluntary organization, based in local missionary societies, through which ordinary middle-class white women confronted such explosive issues as rape, lynching, and interracial sex. By joining this group, otherwise anonymous individuals emerged into the public sphere, and thus into historical visibility. They kept records. They wrote speeches. They passed resolutions. They acted on the basis of . . .

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