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Contents 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 Figures 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 Preface 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. Abbreviations ASWPL Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching. BOD Minutes of the Board of Directors of the YWCA of New York City. BTW Papers Louis Harlan, ed. The Booker T. Washington Papers. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972-1989. 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, 1980. 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 University. 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 Papers. 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, D.C. 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 Library. 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. Introduction 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 above. 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.