To 'joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women's Lives and Labors After the Civil War

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Harvard University Press, 1997 - Business & Economics - 311 pages
2 Reviews

As the Civil War drew to a close, newly emancipated black women workers made their way to Atlanta--the economic hub of the newly emerging urban and industrial south--in order to build an independent and free life on the rubble of their enslaved past. In an original and dramatic work of scholarship, Tera Hunter traces their lives in the postbellum era and reveals the centrality of their labors to the African-American struggle for freedom and justice. Household laborers and washerwomen were constrained by their employers' domestic worlds but constructed their own world of work, play, negotiation, resistance, and community organization.

Hunter follows African-American working women from their newfound optimism and hope at the end of the Civil War to their struggles as free domestic laborers in the homes of their former masters. We witness their drive as they build neighborhoods and networks and their energy as they enjoy leisure hours in dance halls and clubs. We learn of their militance and the way they resisted efforts to keep them economically depressed and medically victimized. Finally, we understand the despair and defeat provoked by Jim Crow laws and segregation and how they spurred large numbers of black laboring women to migrate north.

Hunter weaves a rich and diverse tapestry of the culture and experience of black women workers in the post-Civil War south. Through anecdote and data, analysis and interpretation, she manages to penetrate African-American life and labor and to reveal the centrality of women at the inception--and at the heart--of the new south.


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User Review  - mdbrady - LibraryThing

Tera Hunter has written an excellent book, one which is both scholarly and engaging for non-scholars. She writes about black women in Atlanta from the Civil War through World War I and the beginnings ... Read full review

To 'joy my freedom: Southern Black women's lives and labors after the Civil War

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Hunter (history, Carnegie Mellon Univ.) examines the rich dimensions of the lives of ordinary black Southern women, who were mainly confined to household labor as maids, nannies, cooks, and ... Read full review


Reconstruction and the Meanings of Freedom
WorkingClass Neighborhoods and Everyday Life
Washing Amazons and Organized Protests 14
The Color Line Gives Way to the Color Wall
Survival and Social Welfare in the Age of Jim Crow
Wholesome and Hurtful Amusements
Dancing and Carousing the Night Away
Tuberculosis as the Negro Servants Disease
Looking for a Free State to Live In 279

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About the author (1997)

Joe Trotter is Mellon Bank Professor and Director of the Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies and the Economy at Carnegie Mellon University. He is one of the foremost historians of African American urban history, and has written numerous books on the topic.
Earl Lewis is Dean of the Graduate School and professor of history and African American studies at the University of Michigan. He is author of In Their Own Interests: Race, Class and Power in Twentieth-Century Norfolk and co-author of Love on Trial.
Tera Hunter is associate professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University, and author of the award-winning book To 'Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women's Lives and Labors after the Civil War.

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