The Worlds of Men
You should go among the menfolk and share with
them our story, so that this knowledge may hasten
their civilization, and so that they may yet be saved
Mules and Men,
Zora Neale Hurston
BY THE mid-1960s, all the women had left childhood behind and were embarking upon a new life. By stepping into a new role—that of an adult—they searched for what this new life and identity would reveal. Their experiences immediately drew them into the political worlds of men. These worlds reflected the privilege and prominence of men’s thoughts, practices, and behaviors. In these worlds, the women found that the power between black and white men and the ways it was culturally and socially reproduced were not equivalent. Yet both worlds exerted dominance over their lives. It was not an absolute or total dominance, for the women made their own decisions and act accordingly. But those decisions were made within and against the cultural and social constraints imposed on them as they engaged the political worlds of men.
Stepping into adulthood, the women’s experiences demanded that they claim a sense of self. For if they did not, they would be subsumed by men’s thoughts, practices, and behaviors in ways contrary to their needs, interests, and aspirations. This realization was embedded in the politics of the period. By the mid-1960s, the struggle for black social justice was taking on a decisively different tone and tenor, in terms of objectives and in strategies, from what the women had observed and experienced as children. Many young blacks were losing patience with what they perceived as the gradualism of integrationist ideology and what they saw as the passivity of nonviolence protest against racial injustices.