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In Gender and Jim Crow, the author, Glenda Gilmore, examines two issues; first, the role of women in North Carolina’s white supremacy battles during the post-Civil War era (1896-1920), and second, gender relations under the Jim crow system.
The book begins with a discussion of the political “place” (42) of North Carolina and that of African-American women in the 19th Century. Gilmore shows that, during this period, white women, despite their knowledge of the “race” differentiation (12) in the Jim Crow system, did not work to deprive black women of their voting rights.
In contrast, white male voters pushed for the disfranchisement of their black counterparts (47) during the same period. To prevent white voter apathy that would allow blacks to dominate the state’s politics, white women engaged in voter-registration campaigns targeting white women.
Gilmore notes that had white men used the same approach, scenes such as the “1898’s Wilmington Riot” (92) would have been avoided and the ‘white supremacy’ preserved. The author asserts that the white women’s attitude was partly due to their interaction with respectful black women leaders. She concludes that North Carolina’s white supremacy politics revolved around “race” for women and “gender” for men (17) during the post-bellum period.
Important Lessons from the Book
In the book, Gilmore deduces that if the approach used by the white women in North Carolina had been embraced by all, the riots and violence that characterized this period would have been avoided. The same can be said of the southern states. The book gives valuable information to the reader about the “place” and roles of African-Americans in North Carolina in the aftermath of the Civil War.
Gilmore elaborates on the socioeconomic conditions of various black women, including those who attained “the best or the better class” (26) status through hard work. Such black women occupied top corporate positions, participated in charity, schooled with black men, and interacted with the white community socially (through marriages), politically and economically.
The book also describes the relationship between “gender” and “race” (98) in North Carolina. During the post-Civil War period, white women enjoyed a cordial relationship with black women working in various organizations.
Christian fellowships and women’s organizations brought both white and black women leaders together to seek for solutions for problems such as unhealthy eating habits, alcohol abuse and poor child health. The book helps the reader understand how the ‘race’ relations involving women defined the approach taken by white women with regard to the disenfranchisement of black voters.
The racial politics of the 19th Century is also well examined in the book. Gilmore explores the political strategies employed by white men to lock out black males from positions of power in federal and local commissions. They used the “trump card” (79), which involved a negative depiction of interracial marriages, to remove black men from positions of power.
Besides this approach, violence was used to disenfranchise black voters (47) during this era. Gilmore identifies powerful people like Josephus Daniels and Furnifold Simmons, the so-called “white men of the better class” (121), as the conspirators behind the movement that promoted the disenfranchisement of black Republican supporters. They used discriminatory practices to ‘put’ black men in their “place” (42) and preserve the white supremacy.
How the Author did it
Gilmore uses various strategies to explore the ‘race’ and ‘gender’ relations in North Carolina. She uses the 19th Century characterizations of people to describe the socioeconomic hierarchy in the Jim Crow system. She states that black women belonged to the “better class” (121) by virtue of their familial background (birth) or hard work.
This privileged class was favored by the white community and interacted with the whites socially (marriages), politically and economically. To substantiate on ‘race’ relations, Gilmore provides several examples on how the black and white women worked together and shared ideas through church organizations and women’s groups. She asserts that these cordial relationships defined how black women were treated in the post-Civil War period.
Gilmore further identifies the ruthless white men (Simmons, Daniels and Aycock) who conspired to lock out black men from North Carolina’s politics in the post-bellum period. She states that their strategies, which included the “trump card” (79) and other discriminatory practices against the black citizens, reduced the political participation of black men.
By comparison, the author uses African-American women to describe how the race relations involving women contributed to political emancipation of the black citizens in the 19th Century. Using records from women’s organizations, she explores their leadership roles and how the race relations played out in women’s organizations.
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The author’s unique approach provides important insights into the struggles of the black community for political emancipation in North Carolina. The author also uses renowned black female figures like Mary Lynch, Rose Aggrey and Charlotte Hawkins to support her argument.
What the Author was trying to do
Gilmore’s book attempts to describe gender relations under the Jim Crow system and the influence of black women on white supremacy in North Carolina in the 19th Century.
She explores the quest by African-Americans for political emancipation in North Carolina. Through their Christian work, black women were integrated into the white community, which led to improvement in race relations. The author also tries to show how the white men used propaganda and violence to keep African-American men in their “place” (42) and protect the white supremacy until the Nineteenth Amendment.
Gilmore, Glenda. 1996. Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.