Table of contents for Bridging race divides : Black nationalism, feminism, and integration in the United States, 1896-1935 / Kate Dossett.

Bibliographic record and links to related information available from the Library of Congress catalog.

Note: Contents data are machine generated based on pre-publication provided by the publisher. Contents may have variations from the printed book or be incomplete or contain other coding.

List of Figures 000
Preface 000
List of Abbreviations 000
Introduction 000
1.	Laying the Groundwork: Washington, Burroughs, Bethune, and 
the Clubwomen's Movement 000
2.	Black Nationalism and Interracialism in the Young Women's 
Christian Association 000
3.	Luxuriant Growth: The Walkers and Black Economic 
Nationalism 000
4.	Amy Jacques Garvey, Jessie Fauset, and Pan-African Feminist 
Thought 000
Epilogue 000
Notes 000
Bibliography 000
Index 000
1.	Mary McLeod Bethune and her pupils at Daytona 000
2.	Mary McLeod Bethune walking into the White House 000
3.	Mary McLeod Bethune portrait 000
4.	Madam Walker driving her automobile 000
5.	Madam Walker Manufacturing Company advertisement 000
6.	Madam Walker and Booker T. Washington 000
7.	Walker agents at Villa Lewaro 000
8.	A'Lelia Walker's 136th Street Beauty Parlor 000
9.	Music room at the 108 West 136th Street Walker home 000
10.	A'Lelia Walker receiving a treatment at Lelia College, New 
York City 000
11.	A'Lelia Walker portrait 000
This book developed out of my fascination with the literary, 
political, and social networks that black women created across 
the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth 
centuries. I was struck, initially, by what seemed to be their 
inconsistent approach to racial uplift. As I delved more into 
their lives and learned how to listen to their many voices, I 
discovered they were smart, flexible, and strategic in their 
thinking. They had to be. At a time when segregation was 
relentless in its imposition of daily humiliations on African 
Americans from all walks of life, black women forged connections 
through their professional and voluntary work, their involvement 
in race, religious, and women's organizations, and their 
entrepreneurial endeavors. They sustained these networks with an 
indefatigable energy that enabled them to endure traveling in 
uncomfortable and often degrading conditions. They visited each 
other in their homes, and schools, and met each other at 
conventions, churches, and community celebrations. Their 
interactions with each other as revealed by their frequent 
correspondence suggests they were women whose lives cannot be 
understand fully through separate studies of them as clubwomen, 
as Harlem Renaissance writers, as Garveyites, or as successful 
businesswomen. This project grew out of a desire to understand 
women's networks across organizational boundaries, but also 
across the historiographical and chronological boundaries that 
have seen black women of the Gilded Age, or "Women's Era" as 
being distinct from black women in the New Negro movement of the 
1920 and 1930s. These categorizations and periodizations were 
not recognized by the women who created these networks in the 
forty years which bridged the nineteenth and twentieth 
centuries. Rather they saw themselves as race women, whose 
ambitions and strategies changed over time but who always 
depended on their interactions with other race women. This book 
is a study of how they created and drew strength from these 
networks. Continually exposed to other members of these networks 
who may have held different views from them, black women were 
encouraged to be strategic in their thinking: to challenge white 
supremacy while also working for and within the race.
	Just as black women's networks were diverse in form and 
content, so were the sources for this study. Many of the sources 
are private papers and collections of correspondence, including 
those of Mary Church Terrell, Margaret Murray Washington, Nannie 
Helen Burroughs, Mary McLeod Bethune, W. E. B. Du Bois, and 
Booker T. Washington. Jessie Fauset's copious correspondence is 
scattered around various collections, including the Countee 
Cullen Papers at the Library of Congress and the Langston Hughes 
papers held in the Beinecke Library at Yale. The Madam Walker 
Collection at the Indiana Historical Society contains a wealth 
of information on the Madam Walker Manufacturing Company, 
although a good quantity of personal correspondence remains in 
the possession of Walker's great-great-granddaughter and 
biographer. Studies of the West 137th Street Colored Branch of 
the YWCA are hampered by a scarcity of existing records. When 
the branch was shut down in the early 1960s and amalgamated with 
the Lexington Avenue YWCA, many records were lost. However, 
there are still microfilms of the 15th Street and later 
Metropolitan Board Executive Committee Minutes, thousands of 
photographs, and some reports by women leaders of the Colored 
Branch for this period. These are scattered (literally) in boxes 
over the current New York City Lexington Avenue headquarters in 
several rooms, corridors, and cupboards and are in serious 
danger of being lost altogether. I would like to thank Evie 
Shapiro at the New York City YWCA for helping me shift through 
piles of abandoned boxes.
	Other useful sources include contemporaneous historical 
accounts, particularly Jane Olcott's The Work of Colored Women, 
written in 1919, and Cecelia Cabaniss Saunders's A Half Century 
of the Young Women's Christian Association (draft typescript, 
1955), which had been stolen from the Lexington Avenue YWCA 
archives; my thanks to Judith Weisenfeld for allowing me to 
xerox her copy. I have since deposited a copy at the Lexington 
Avenue Y. Besides personal correspondence, many of the networks 
between race women were unearthed through reports and sometimes 
photographs in black newspapers and journals. Particularly 
helpful in this regard were the New York Age, The Crisis, the 
Negro World, as well as the publications of black women's 
organizations, including the NACW's National Notes and the 
YWCA's Association Monthly.
	There are many archivists who helped me with this project, 
and I thank them all. I would particularly like to thank Kenneth 
Chandler at the Bethune Council House. I thank all the 
organizations who provided financial assistance, which enabled 
me to embark on regular trips to the United States. These 
include the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Gilder 
Lehrman Foundation, the Sara Norton Fund at Cambridge 
University, and Columbia University for providing me with a 
Visiting Fellowship and for facilitating my research in New York 
City. I am grateful to the History Department at Leeds for 
funding research trips and for putting their faith in me even 
before this project was finished. I thank my colleague Katrina 
Honeyman, for her insightful comments on a section of the 
manuscript, and for being an inspiring role model. I would 
particularly like to thank my third-year Harlem Renaissance 
Special Subject students at Leeds, whose enthusiasm and 
excitement for the subject inspired me afresh in the last stages 
of this project. I would also like to thank the members of the 
Black History Workshop held at Houston University in 2003 for 
their insightful comments at an early stage of this work.
	I appreciate the talents of Michael O'Brien and Tony 
Badger, who read early drafts of the manuscript, as well as 
those of the University Press of Florida readers. I thank Derek 
Krisoff and Eli Bortz at UPF for their support and guidance 
through the final stages of this project. There are a vast 
number of people who helped me and hosted me in the United 
States. Particular thanks to Anneli McDowell for sharing her 
home and family with me. I would also like to thank the late 
Frank Sieverts for hosting me so graciously in Washington, D.C. 
My deepest thanks to Chris Sidell for driving me to archives 
from New York to Atlanta to Indianapolis and far beyond. My 
sincere thanks go to Zo¿ Hilton for hosting me on my early trips 
to New York, and to Jessica Pogson for her always open house in 
London. I thank Julie for her love and always generous support. 
Above all my thanks go to Mum and Dad, for their love, constant 
support, and unfailing patience, and for providing me with four 
brothers, without whom my feminist consciousness would not have 
been what it is. Last, but never least, I thank two brave people 
who read numerous drafts of this manuscript and who never shrank 
from offering advice: James, my friend and editor, and Robert, 
my love.
ASWPL	Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of 
BOD	Minutes of the Board of Directors of the YWCA of New York 
BTW Papers	Louis Harlan, ed. The Booker T. Washington 
Papers. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 
BTW-LOC	Booker T. Washington Papers, Library of Congress.
CCP	Countee Cullen Papers, Library of Congress.
CCW	Council on Colored Work Minutes.
Du Bois Papers	The papers of W. E. B. Du Bois. Microfilm. 
Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts, 
ECM	Executive Committee Minutes of the 15th Street Association, 
YWCA of the City of New York.
Gumby Papers	L. S. Gumby Papers, Rare Books and Manuscripts, 
Columbia University.
ICWDR	International Council of Women of the Darker Races.
ILPDR	International League of People of the Darker Races.
LHP	Langston Hughes Papers, James Weldon Johnson Collection in 
the Yale Collection of American Literature, 
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale 
LOC	Library of Congress.
MCT-LOC	Mary Church Terrell Papers, Library of Congress.
MCT-MSRC	Mary Church Terrell Papers, Moorland-Spingarn Research 
Center, Howard University.
MMB-LOC	Mary McLeod Bethune Papers, Bethune Foundation 
Collection, Library of Congress.
MSRC	Moorland-Spingarn Research Center.
MWC-IHS	Madam Walker Collection, Indiana Historical Society.
NAACP-LOC	National Association for the Advancement of Colored 
People Papers, Library of Congress.
NACWC Papers	National Association of Colored Women's Clubs 
NAACP Papers Papers of the NAACP. Frederick, Md.: University 
Publications of America, 1982-1997.
NAWE	National Association of Wage Earners.
NBA	National Board Archives, YWCA of the USA, Empire State 
Building, New York City.
NBC	National Baptist Convention.
NCNW	National Council of Negro Women.
NCNW Papers	National Council of Negro Women's Papers, Series 
II, Mary McLeod Bethune Council House, National 
Historic Site, National Park Service, Washington, 
NHB-LOC	Nannie Helen Burroughs Papers, Library of Congress.
NLRCW	National League of Republican Colored Women.
NNBL	National Negro Business League.
NYCAA	New York City YWCA Archives, Lexington Avenue, New 
York City.
NYPL	New York Public Library.
RNNBL	Records of the National Negro Business League, 
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, 
Washington, D.C.
SC	Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
TICF	Tuskegee Institute Clippings File, British Newspaper 
UNIA	United Negro Improvement Association.
WC	Women's Convention of the National Baptist Convention.
YWCA	Young Women's Christian Association.
YMCA	Young Men's Christian Association.
When Zora Neale Hurston suggested in a newspaper interview in 
1943 that the segregation of southern blacks from whites was not 
necessarily undesirable, she provoked an outcry. Her critics 
charged her with endorsing Jim Crow and providing ammunition to 
white supremacists. Her friends wondered at her hypocrisy, since 
she had herself benefited from the blessings of integration 
through her education at Barnard College. How, wondered Joel A. 
Rogers, the Afrocentric historian, could Hurston legitimately 
grab the benefits of integration while advocating black 
separatism?1 But Hurston was far from unique; black women had a 
long history of weaving a course that relied on integrationist 
and separatist strategies. In early-twentieth-century America, 
black women sought the benefits of both black separatism and 
integrationism: at a grassroots level, they became members of 
both Marcus Garvey's black nationalist United Negro Improvement 
Association (UNIA) and the interracial National Association for 
the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); on an individual 
level, businesswomen like Madam C. J. Walker lent their 
philanthropy to both separatist and integrationist 
organizations; at a leadership level, black clubwomen set up 
pan-African organizations while also joining with white women in 
interracial movements, such as the Young Women's Christian 
Association (YWCA).	Bridging Race Divides examines the careers 
of a group of black women activists, clubwomen, writer-
intellectuals, and businesswomen who had multiple affiliations 
with both black nationalist and interracial organizations, made 
important contributions to black feminist thought, and, through 
their use of multiple strategies, shaped debates over the 
solution to the race problem. Included in this study are three 
prominent clubwomen, Margaret Murray Washington, Nannie Helen 
Burroughs, and Mary McLeod Bethune; black women leaders in the 
YWCA, including Eva Bowles and Cecelia Cabaniss Saunders; Madam 
C. J. Walker and her daughter A'Lelia Walker, who founded the 
Walker Manufacturing Company's hair treatment and beauty 
schools; Amy Jacques Garvey, UNIA leader and Negro World 
journalist; and Jessie Fauset, novelist and literary editor of 
The Crisis during the Harlem Renaissance. Through an examination 
of the political thought and activism of these women in the 
years between the founding of the National Association of 
Colored Women (NACW) in 1896 and the National Council of Negro 
Women (NCNW) in 1935, this book puts forward three main 
arguments: first, that these women challenged the dichotomy 
between black nationalism and integrationism and with it the 
presumed triumph of an interracial America; second, that black 
women were at the forefront of black nationalism and worked to 
shape it within a feminist framework; third, that they made a 
significant contribution toward the development of a black 
feminist tradition. As such this study engages with three 
current historiographical debates: studies that understand black 
political thought as having overlapping rather than oppositional 
strands; feminist scholarship that has redefined the meaning of 
the political and the nature of essentialist feminism; and 
interdisciplinary studies concerning the role of feminism within 
nationalist organizations.
	Black women in early-twentieth-century America consciously 
chose to support a range of race and women's organizations, and 
drew on a variety of strategies to address the "multiple 
jeopardy" of gender, race, and class. Their flexible approach 
was manifested in their political groupings, economic 
initiatives, cultural protests, and organizational strategies, 
which challenged the integrationist versus black nationalist 
dichotomy constructed by their contemporaries and built up by 
later narratives of American history. The religious, literary, 
social reform, women's rights, antilynching, pan-African, 
interracial, party political, and myriad other clubs to which 
these women belonged had wide crossover in their membership, and 
their activities were faithfully reported and given publicity by 
women journalists like Fauset in The Crisis and Alice Dunbar-
Nelson in the Pittsburgh Courier.2 Time and again, Washington, 
Burroughs, Bethune, the Walkers, Fauset, and many others offered 
their homes, schools, and wider contacts to help other black 
women launch new organizations and initiatives. For example, 
Margaret Murray Washington founded the pan-African International 
Council of Women of the Darker Races (ICWDR) at Nannie Helen 
Burroughs's National Training School in Washington, D.C.; Mary 
McLeod Bethune founded the NCNW at the Colored Branch of the 
YWCA in Harlem, which was also used as a meeting place for many 
other local and national black women's initiatives, including 
the Women's Auxiliary of the NAACP. A'Lelia Walker also hosted 
the Women's Auxiliary at her 136th Street Studio, while her 
mother's homes in Indianapolis and at Irvington-on-Hudson had 
welcomed many prominent clubwomen.3 In her will Madam Walker left 
funds to the schools of many of the clubwomen she had come to 
see as friends, including Bethune, while it was Bethune herself 
who delivered the eulogy at A'Lelia Walker's funeral in 1931.4
	In spite of their many close ties, both personal and 
intellectual, the women who form the substance of this study 
have often been written about separately, either as 
integrationists or nationalists. Viewed as part of the narrative 
of the Harlem Renaissance or the Garvey movement or the black 
clubwomen's movement, the connections these women forged were 
for a long time obscured by historiographical boundaries. This 
meant that scholars of the Harlem Renaissance neglected the 
organizational records and writings of clubwomen or Garveyites, 
scholars of Garveyism paid little attention to the novels of 
black women writers, and historians of clubwomen assumed they 
had little in common with rank-and-file Garveyites. Just as 
these women relied on a range of formal and informal networks to 
enable them to bridge race divisions, historians need to look 
beyond historiographical boundaries in order to more fully 
understand their ideological and political worlds. Recent 
studies in early-twentieth-century black women's history by 
scholars such as Victoria Wolcott and Michele Mitchell have 
begun to explore the connections between women from different 
social and political backgrounds, and it is to this field that 
Bridging Race Divides contributes.5 This book examines together 
the private papers and correspondence of black women activists, 
writers, club members, and race leaders in conjunction with the 
records of the many organizations to which they belonged, as 
well as public speeches, newspaper reports, and writings, 
including journalistic pieces and novels. What becomes clear 
through listening to the voices of these women is that while 
they saw integrationism as neither inevitable nor always 
desirable, they did see it is as compatible with the 
continuation of oppositional strategies used in the past, 
including accommodationism, pan-Africanism, and cultural and 
economic black nationalism. They rarely viewed integrationism as 
the only solution to the race problem.
Black Nationalism versus Integrationism: A False Dichotomy?
Narratives of American history traditionally pushed African 
American thought and its political exponents into two camps. 
Black leaders were viewed as either 
accommodationists/integrationists on the one hand, or 
militants/black nationalists on the other. While one group was 
viewed as conforming to white values, be it through 
accommodation, assimilation or, later, integration, the other 
camp resisted white oppression through protest, black 
nationalism, and pan-Africanism.6 These dichotomies were usually 
constructed within the framework of a progressive integrationist 
narrative which focused on male leadership and the apparent 
failure of black nationalism and pan-Africanism. While Frederick 
Douglass continues to be celebrated as the granddaddy of civil 
rights protest, Alexander Crummell and Martin Delany are 
regarded as ideologically inconsistent thinkers and flawed 
leaders, whose black nationalist rhetoric disguised their true 
integrationist feelings; W. E. B. Du Bois outlived Booker T. 
Washington, and the Tuskegeean's accommodationism lost ground to 
Du Bois's more militant campaign for civil rights with the 
integrationist and interracial NAACP. Garvey's arrest and exile 
removed an important challenge to the integrationist solution to 
the race problem. While both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King 
had their lives cut short, King lived on in American memory, as 
his legacy was transmuted into a celebration of America's 
interracialism in the form of a national holiday. This 
celebratory integrationist narrative negated the importance of 
strategies of black nationalism and pan-Africanism, so prominent 
in black thought for much of the twentieth century, and instead 
stressed African Americans' incorporation into mainstream 
American politics and society through their (albeit segregated) 
inclusion in the New Deal, the Second World War, and the civil 
rights movement.7
	W. E. B. Du Bois was perhaps the first twentieth-century 
commentator to define the contours of the integrationism-versus-
nationalism debate. In his 1903 Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois 
recognized what he called "the contradiction of double aims," a 
product of the black American's "double consciousness":
The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife, 
; this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his 
double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he 
wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not 
Africanize America, for America has too much to teach white 
Americans, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the 
world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both 
a Negro and American.8
Forty years later, in his memoir Dusk of Dawn, Du Bois 
recognized that finding a way to combine integrationist and 
nationalist sentiments remained one of the greatest challenges 
facing black leadership.9 Many of his contemporaries continued to 
see these two approaches as incompatible. In his 1934 pamphlet 
Negro Americans, What Now? the poet, historian, and NAACP 
activist James Weldon Johnson suggested that "our entire 
intellectual history" had been characterized by the debate 
between integrationists and what he termed isolationists. 
Integrationism, he believed, would ultimately triumph because 
separatism could only lead to an unsatisfactory and secondary 
status for African Americans in the United States.10 Black 
intellectuals in the second half of the twentieth century helped 
to perpetuate this view of incompatibility. While challenging 
the limited role accorded black nationalism by black 
intellectuals like Johnson, Harold Cruse in his landmark 
critique of black intellectuals agreed that "American Negro 
history is basically a history of the conflict between 
integrationist and nationalist forces in politics, economics, 
and culture, no matter what leaders are involved and what 
slogans are used."11 Yet even those commentators who, like Cruse, 
understood the importance of black cultural nationalism for the 
1960s liberation struggle, ironically served to support a 
liberal integrationist historiography in which nationalism was 
always the weaker of two competing ideologies. Amiri Baraka, 
Addison Gayle, and other proponents of the Black Aesthetic 
looked back at the failure of past scholarship and cultural 
endeavor and sought to promote a new black cultural pride. While 
Baraka and Gayle were arguing against African American 
integration into what they saw as a corrupt and imperialistic 
white America, they undermined the very black nationalist legacy 
upon which they might have built, since their criticism rested 
on the premise and contributed to the idea that past black 
leaders had failed by pursuing integrationist goals in politics 
and assimilationist values in art.12 Examining the history of 
black culture, Afrocentric writers constructed a narrative of 
failure which could be pinned on a middle-class, integrationist 
black leadership. The prescriptive judgments of the Black 
Aesthetic made it easy for later critics to dismiss literary and 
political forebears as integrationist without any understanding 
of the historical context. For example, middle-class feminist 
authors of the Harlem Renaissance were seen as integrationist 
for writing about middle-class blacks. Clubwomen were likewise 
viewed as integrationist, because of their rhetoric of racial 
uplift, and in spite of their long history of separatist and 
pan-African organizing. The successful black businesswoman Madam 
Walker was seen as imitating white standards of beauty through 
her sale of black hair products.13
	Historians of black nationalist movements have now moved 
beyond the nationalism-versus-integrationism dichotomy to look 
at the diverse and complicated array of black nationalisms in 
the nineteenth century. This study builds on the work of 
revisionist historians who hold a range of views regarding the 
success, viability, radicalism, and even existence of black 
nationalism, but who have been interested in how black 
nationalism was able to adapt to its circumstances. This is not 
to suggest as Wilson J. Moses has that black nationalism simply 
"assumed the shape of its container" and imitated white 
intellectual movements, but rather to understand as Sterling 
Stuckey does that: "To enhance effectiveness, to exploit the 
changing nature of a cruel reality, some elements of the one 
ideology were combined in the other."14 While Stuckey argued that 
black nationalism was radical and grounded in a sense of 
belonging to a pan-African community which survived slavery, 
Moses, Tunde Adeleke, and others have suggested that black 
nationalism in the nineteenth century was conservative and often 
assimilationist in its desire to "civilize" Africa.15 This book 
does not suggest that the debates concerning the relative 
benefits of an integrationist or black nationalist solution to 
the race problem were insignificant, nor deny that they could 
sometimes be extremely divisive. But we should be wary of 
replacing the black nationalist-versus-integrationist framework 
with that of conservative-versus-radical black nationalism, a 
polarization that can be equally distorting. As an alternative 
it will be argued in these pages that it is only through 
analyzing the roles of black women that the extent to which 
African Americans embraced both integrationist and separatist 
strategies becomes clear, since black women's leadership roles 
and overlapping networks made it easier for them to avoid the 
ideological posturing that often characterized black male 
leadership roles. By focusing on black women's experiences it 
becomes evident that black political thought was characterized 
more by complexity than dichotomy, by multiple rather than 
singular strategies, and by interdependent rather than mutually 
exclusive philosophies.
Gender and Nationalism
Black nationalism in the United States has been constantly 
redefined since the War of Independence, and like many other 
nationalisms, what characterizes its essential and most 
successful constituents has been hotly contested. However, the 
central role played by historians in constructing and sustaining 
nationalisms has long been acknowledged. As Hobsbawm puts it: 
"Historians are to nationalism what poppy-growers . . . are to 
heroin-addicts: we supply the essential raw material for the 
market."16 Accepting black nationalism as a constructed, albeit 
no less significant, worldview, black nationalism can be 
characterized as a quest for autonomy for black Americans and an 
understanding that the freedom of all peoples of African descent 
is interlinked. Indeed, the supranational roots of black 
nationalism in the international system of African enslavement 
has meant that black nationalism in the United States has always 
been closely linked to pan-Africanism, and can be better 
understood through an imagined community notion of nationalism 
rather than a Eurocentric nation-state model. Encompassing both 
an intellectual response to, and a strategic method of dealing 
with, American racism, black nationalist thought has 
accommodated both separatist and assimilationist views in the 
struggle to achieve race solidarity, race pride, and economic 
and cultural freedom.17
	Black women in the early twentieth century drew strength 
from nationalist movements taking place in other parts of the 
world during what has become known as the "apogee of 
nationalism." Following World War I and the embedding of self-
determination (at least for white peoples) in the League of 
Nation's mandate, nationalist movements came to be viewed by 
many as legitimate liberation movements in which women's 
equality might also be achieved.18 Black women were inspired not 
only by contemporaneous movements; they were able to draw on a 
long tradition of black nationalist protest in America which 
linked race and gender oppression. Black feminist nationalists 
Maria Stewart and Mary Ann Shadd were important contributors and 
definers of black nationalism in the mid-nineteenth century, 
arguing for the importance of economic nationalism and sustained 
political activism. Shadd used her public role as a lecturer and 
newspaper editor to challenge black men's right to shape black 
nationalist thought in the antebellum period. An early emigrant 
to Canada, Shadd was an important voice in the debates 
concerning emigrationism, playing a leading role in challenging 
both the American Colonization Society's support for 
repatriation of free blacks to Africa and Martin Delany's and 
other black nationalists' advocacy of emigration to Africa or 
Haiti. Shadd's belief in a black nationalism that was 
independent of a nation-state reflected her pan-African view of 
an imagined community of blacks which she promoted through her 
Canadian newspaper the Provincial Freeman, as well as the 
pragmatic belief that "blacks would be exploited in the sugar 
cane fields of Latin America and the Caribbean just as they were 
in the US."19 A pioneer teacher in Canada West, Shadd strongly 
opposed segregated schooling, believing that segregation and 
voluntary separation were very different. Shadd saw no 
difficulties in arguing for integrated public institutions in 
Canada while also helping to construct an international network 
of black activists. Nor did she view her support for black 
nationalism as being in conflict with her work for women's 
rights.20 At the end of the nineteenth century Shadd had become 
part of a tradition of black women's nationalist activity in 
North America.
	Even so, black feminists in the early twentieth century 
appear to have been ahead of their time in their willingness to 
negotiate nationalism and feminism, since both contemporary 
commentators and later historians have often viewed black 
nationalist movements, like many other nationalist movements, as 
inherently patriarchal.21 Indeed, the very creation of the nation 
has been viewed as being inextricably connected to the 
construction of separate spheres: the public life for men and 
the private for women.22 Yet visions of a black nation do not 
have to be patriarchal any more than visions of an integrated 
society. Indeed integration of black women into white American 
society in the early twentieth century would hardly have offered 
them a more liberated or equal status. The notion that black 
nationalism is inherently incompatible with feminist thought 
derives from studies of (male) nineteenth-century black 
nationalists. In The Black Atlantic, Paul Gilroy suggests that 
the nineteenth-century black nationalist Martin Delany was 
"probably the first black thinker to make the argument that the 
integrity of the race is primarily the integrity of its male 
heads of household and secondarily the integrity of the families 
over which they preside."23 More problematic than Delany's own 
views is that by regarding Delany as the founding father of 
black nationalism, we allow little room for others to represent 
black nationalist thought.24 Since historians are so crucial in 
the construction of nationalisms, we need to take account of the 
gendered structures that underpin their work before accepting 
uncritically their notions of who the founding fathers (and it 
usually is fathers) are. As Hazel Carby argues in her discussion 
of Du Bois and Cornel West, "we need to expose and learn from 
the gendered, ideological assumptions which underlie the 
founding texts and determine that their authors become the 
representative figures of the American intellectual. These 
authors and their productions are shaped by gendered structures 
of thought and feeling, which in turn actively shape the major 
paradigms and modes of thought of all academic discourse."25 Just 
as the work of Anthony Smith and Eric Hobsbawm has been 
canonized in the writing and construction of European 
nationalisms, so the work of August Meier, Wilson J. Moses, and 
Tunde Adeleke has been key in constructing male black thinkers 
as the founders and shapers of black nationalism. These accounts 
appear to have been little influenced by recent work on gender 
and nation. Even those recent accounts that acknowledge women's 
involvement in nationalist movements do not regard a gendered 
understanding as challenging the main contours of nationalist 
studies debates.26 While gender historians such as Michele 
Mitchell and Ula Taylor have tried to bring the study of gender 
and nationalism together, it is still the case that black 
feminist nationalist studies are ghettoized from most mainstream 
theorizations of nationalism.27
	There has also been a long tradition of white Western 
feminists who have viewed nationalism and feminism as 
incompatible. In Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf suggested that 
"as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As 
a woman my country is the whole world."28 Woolf saw women as 
"outsiders and victims of states," and as such she believed that 
it was difficult for women to support nationalist causes when 
they were denied equal rights.29 African American women writing 
at the same time disagreed, because they saw the two causes as 
interlinked. How could they be free women when their men were 
oppressed? Like Woolf, later twentieth-century Western white 
feminists have also struggled to support women of color engaged 
in nationalist struggles, while scholars of women and black 
nationalism, such as Cynthia Enloe, have argued that 
"nationalism typically has sprung from masculinized memory, 
masculinized humiliation and masculinized hope."30
	This study seeks to challenge academic discourse which 
continues to construct nationalism as a male-centered 
phenomenon, by examining the historical positioning of black 
women and their relationships with and within nationalist 
movements in the early twentieth century. I argue that these 
women saw themselves as definers of nationalism and feminism, 
rather than as victims of state, or patriarchal nationalism, and 
that their writings and activities demonstrate their 
contribution toward "a definition of nationalism that places 
women at the centre and acknowledges feminist nationalism as a 
process of interaction developed between women and men, not 
solely by men."31 Building on recent studies of feminist 
nationalists in other periods and other parts of the world, 
Bridging Race Divides explores the creative and sometimes 
debilitating, but always interlocking, relationship between 
gender and nation.32 This study makes a significant contribution 
to the field of gender and nation studies by analyzing the 
methods black women employed to negotiate between their gendered 
and racial identities and by demonstrating how, through their 
development of pan-African ideas and alliances with other women 
of color across the Diaspora, they influenced black nationalism.
Developing Black Feminism
Many of the black women who engaged with black nationalism 
understood it as a central component of the struggle for women's 
rights. Black feminist thought is an ever-evolving philosophy to 
which they contributed much in the early decades of the 
twentieth century. They recognized the importance of self-
definition and the interconnected nature of race, gender, and 
class as sources of oppression. They made connections between 
their intellectual thought and practical endeavor and celebrated 
and commemorated the legacy of past struggle. While they 
recognized that nationalist struggle could help stimulate a 
feminist consciousness, they realized that institutional 
transformation was part of the same struggle. All of these were 
themes which would come to be seen as the defining 
characteristics of black feminist thought in the latter half of 
the twentieth century.33 This book looks beyond essentialist and 
ahistorical definitions of feminism which developed as part of 
the second-wave feminist movement and that sought to find one 
unifying theory. It argues rather for a feminist analysis that 
explores the mutability of texts and representations, and for a 
literary and cultural analysis that understands the importance 
of historical contextualization. In particular it calls for 
greater understanding of the complex relationship between race 
and class on the one hand, and the public-private divide on the 
other, two areas which have often suffered from an ahistorical 
application of latter-day and essentialist feminist theory.
	The attempt to understand the importance of class 
differentiation in women's history has led, unintentionally, to 
the creation of a new essentialism. The call to look "beyond the 
search for sisterhood" was part of the reaction against the 
essentialism of white feminist history, which had assumed that 
gender was the most important and equally oppressive criterion 
in all women's lives.34 Criticizing women's studies that focused 
only on elite, northeastern white women, Nancy Hewitt and others 
called for women's historians to look at the differences 
characterizing the experiences of women from various classes and 
ethnicities. The warning not to imagine bonds of sisterhood 
where there were none led to a welcome and increased awareness 
of the difference between the experiences of black middle-class 
and working-class women, and of the danger of allowing 
articulate middle-class women to speak for all women. It 
resulted in excellent scholarship by Angela Davis, Tera Hunter, 
and others that uncovered the voices of working-class women.35 
However, it has also resulted in a reverse essentialism, a class 
bias which has meant that middle-class women have been deemed 
less authentic, less worthy of study, and, unlike their poorer 
sisters, incapable of exhibiting race pride or nationalist 
sentiment. There is a disturbing tendency to see only working-
class voices or rural folk experiences as authentic identifiers 
of blackness. For example, Houston A. Baker's theory of blues as 
the African American vernacular suggested an essentialist 
construction of black culture.36 Feminist critics have questioned 
this new essentialism. Ann Ducille criticized Baker's work for 
making the blues, and the way of life the blues represents, the 
"metonym for authentic blackness." It was not simply that Baker 
made southern folk experiences the source of all African 
American culture, rather that "he also makes such sitings an 
intellectual imperative, arguing that the blues should be 
privileged in the study of American culture as a way of 
remapping 'expressive geographies in the US.'"37 In spite of the 
attempts by literary critics to revalue the voices of middle-
class black women writers like Jessie Fauset and Nella Larsen, 
the tendency to regard middle-class women as less worthy of 
study, as inauthentic and instinctively assimilationist, 
remains. In the same way that the folk or working class have 
been deemed more "authentic" and therefore worthy of feminist 
analysis, middle-class black women are often assumed to lack 
class awareness and accused of imposing their (implicitly white) 
middle-class values on others. This is a viewpoint put across 
not only in the feminist scholarship of the 1990s, but also by 
the masculinist discourse of the Black Aesthetic.38
	The term middle class has undergone intensive scrutiny in 
recent years. Often the term was used indiscriminately and 
sometimes pejoratively in discussions of black clubwomen, but 
now historians have called for a more nuanced understanding of 
the term when applied to African American communities at the 
turn of the century, one which requires us to keep in mind the 
different cultural, economic, and political values that 
distinguished members of the black and white middle class.39 To 
signify this difference historians have variously used "better," 
"rising," or "aspiring" class."40 In this study I use the term 
black middle class because recent debates about terminology have 
served to establish a common understanding of the changing and 
diverse makeup of the black middle classes: the black middle 
class was constructed by the black community and differed from a 
white middle class; members of the black middle class shared a 
belief in racial uplift and a capacity through education, 
occupation, or support of family and friends to devote some of 
their leisure time to advancing the race.41 While this emphasis 
on the cultural beliefs of those who made up the black middle 
class can help us to recognize class tensions, at the same time 
we need to understand that respectability was not simply the 
prerogative of the middle classes, imposed upon the poor. Rather 
those movements that have been dubbed middle class were 
sometimes based on "community consensus and cross-class 
participation."42 The assumption that black middle-class values, 
particularly as regards sexual conduct, were not values that 
working-class black women could develop and adhere to for their 
own economic and social reasons has been challenged, along with 
the notion that the sexual life of the blues woman rather than 
that of the clubwoman was the more typical or identifiable for 
working-class women. As Victoria Wolcott has demonstrated, an 
understanding of the interconnectedness of race, class, and 
gender and how they operate in early-twentieth-century America 
is central to understanding the politics of respectability as "a 
foundation of African American women's survival strategies and 
self-definition irrespective of class."43 To reflect the 
diversity of backgrounds and experiences of those who shared 
these values and whose rise from poverty to race leadership 
makes a rigid class categorization unhelpful, I also use race 
woman, a term that many of these women used to describe each 
other and themselves.44
	Bridging Race Divides argues for greater care in applying 
the late-twentieth-century race, gender, and class trinity of 
oppression to the early twentieth century in ways that only 
emphasize difference, because to do so may deny poor black women 
agency, and ignore the possibility that the shared threat of 
racialized and sexual insult was one that might often have 
helped to bridge divisions among black women. It does not seek 
to establish sisterhood between all black women, or overlook the 
importance of class as a source of division, but rather rejects 
the notion that black culture and politics were shaped only from 
	This book also argues for a definition of feminism in which 
the relationship between the public and private is handled with 
greater historical sensitivity. Black feminism in twentieth-
century America was not a static concept, but a process of 
struggle. For the purposes of this study, then, feminist 
activism is characterized in broad terms by women who strove to 
promote women's equal rights, who negotiated the private-public 
sphere divide, and who, while aware that gender is a social 
construct, also accepted that there were some important 
environmental and historical differences between the experiences 
of men and women. Since the 1970s, American women's history has 
identified strongly with the slogan of the second-wave feminist 
movement, "the personal is political." Yet recent research in 
women's studies demonstrates that this concept can be unhelpful 
when used ahistorically and has called for greater historical 
contextualization and understanding by feminist scholars of the 
many restrictions which women face in the private sphere, not 
only in their relationships with whites but also with black 
men.45 In the early decades of the twentieth century, black women 
pursued feminist goals in their public lives which they were 
often unable to achieve in their own personal lives, 
particularly in their marriages. Yet we should be wary of 
judging them poor feminists on these grounds. Not only were many 
black women aware of this contradiction, but they also 
understood that their very ability to project a feminist agenda 
on race movements sometimes depended on their ability to perform 
different roles in private.46 They were aware that the private 
sphere was far from being an autonomous, free space for men or 
women and understood that the erection of boundaries between the 
private and public was essentially a political act.47 We should 
not then be put off by the fact that these women seldom self-
identified as feminists, since, as Patricia Hill Collins argues, 
to do so "misses the complexity of how Black feminist practice 
actually operates."48 This book argues that it is only by looking 
at how African American women from a range of political 
spectrums engaged with feminism, black nationalism, and 
integrationism that we can really understand how early-
twentieth-century black thought "actually operates."
	Drawing on a range of private papers, institutional 
records, fiction, and black newspapers, Bridging Race Divides is 
developed in four chapters. The first two chapters deal with the 
variety of approaches taken by leading black women activists in 
the institutional realm of education and women's clubs. Chapter 
1 delineates the negotiation of separatist and integrationist 
strategies on the part of three leading clubwomen, Margaret 
Murray Washington, Nannie Helen Burroughs, and Mary McLeod 
Bethune, who created and led the most influential national black 
women's clubs in the early part of the twentieth century. It 
pays particular attention to their activities as clubwomen in 
the 1920s, a decade that has traditionally marked the end of the 
period known as the Women's Era, but which saw black clubwomen 
work increasingly with other women of African descent. Steering 
a course between integrationism and black nationalism, they 
insisted on being able to choose elements of both strategies, 
while their pan-Africanist endeavors within the International 
Council of Women of the Darker Races laid the foundations for 
the development of black nationalist feminist thought.
	Chapter 2 examines African American women who worked within 
the purportedly interracial (but actually segregated) YWCA, at 
both the local Colored Branch of the Y in New York City and on 
the Colored Committees at the national level. While African 
American women worked within an interracial organization, they 
often pursued policies that promoted race solidarity and black 
leadership of black women. When it suited their purpose, black 
women within the YWCA were willing to take from and to exploit, 
as well as help to define, their own imperatives and agendas in 
ways that promoted what they conceived of as their own, racially 
based interests as well as those of the wider black community. 
Working within segregated organizations like the YWCA was 
compatible with feminist black nationalism. Indeed the disputes 
between white and black YWCA workers at both national and local 
level suggest that black women's experiences of race relations 
with the YWCA in the early decades of the twentieth century 
provided impetus for the development of black nationalist 
feminism in the 1920s. Chapter 2 also examines the impact on the 
YWCA of pressure from the YMCA to merge in the 1920s. This 
pressure served to highlight the unique and important role the 
YWCA played in these years in creating a space where women could 
work outside and beyond the often more conservative values which 
governed its male counterpart.
	In Chapter 3 the study turns to the activities of the 
legendary black businesswomen Madam Walker and her daughter 
A'Lelia. It offers a detailed account of the practical as well 
as the ideological difficulties encountered by Madam Walker in 
the establishment of her cosmetics business and examines the 
ways in which she combined economic incentive with racial uplift 
to recruit sales agents and hairdressers and to sell her 
product. It examines the business enterprises, marketing 
strategies, and political and cultural activities of Walker and 
her daughter, who managed to swim with both the black 
nationalist and the integrationist tides. Exploring the methods 
Madam Walker employed to secure her place within the respectable 
black elite, the chapter argues that she used her influence in 
black political circles to promote economic and political 
opportunities for black women through her network of politicized 
Walker agents, and examines further how her daughter built on 
and adapted her mother's legacy for the new consumer age.
	The final chapter explores the work of Amy Jacques Garvey 
and Jessie Fauset, who were writers and activists at the heart 
of the New Negro movement in Harlem in the 1920s. The chapter 
shows that through their intellectual and practical endeavors, 
these women were not only at the forefront of the contemporary 
debate on the burning, and controversial, issue of black 
nationalism, but also at the forefront of black feminism. It 
seeks to dismantle the fixed boundary between the Harlem 
Renaissance and the Garvey movement, and examines some of the 
ways that women played an important role in both movements. 
Chapter 4 also seeks to domesticate black nationalism in a 
positive sense and detach it from the gender of its major male 
spokesmen. Analyzing the role of black women nationalists makes 
it apparent that nationalism was no extremist, esoteric vision 
based on utopian fantasies of a return to African or separate 
black nationhood. Both an intellectual enterprise and sometimes 
a strategic one, black nationalism was the articulation of a 
greater shared sympathy among peoples of African descent than 
between white and black Americans, and one which imagined a 
community of peoples of African descent whose experiences during 
and after slavery drew them together in a common destiny.
	The study concludes with an epilogue that suggests that 
what became central to the vision of many black women activists 
and intellectuals by the late 1930s was a biracialism based on 
equality rather than integration. That is, a firm belief that 
African American institutions should have equal access to 
resources and state provisions; integration could, and should 
wait (potentially for a long time), and certainly until white 
Americans learned to treat blacks with respect.

Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication:

African American women political activists -- History -- 19th century.
African American women political activists -- History -- 20th century.
African American women political activists -- Biography.
African American women -- Intellectual life.
African American women -- Social networks.
Black nationalism -- United States -- History.
Feminism -- United States -- History.
African American leadership -- History.
African Americans -- Segregation -- History.
United States -- Race relations.