Brandi Clay BrimmerJun 14, 2022
Claiming Union Widowhood
Race, Respectability, and Poverty in the Post-Emancipation South
Duke University Press 2020
In Claiming Union Widowhood: Race, Respectability, and Poverty in the Post-Emancipation South (Duke UP, 2020), Brandi Clay Brimmer analyzes the US pension system from the perspective of poor black women during and after the Civil War. Reconstructing the grassroots pension network in New Bern, North Carolina, through a broad range of historical sources, she outlines how the mothers, wives, and widows of black Union soldiers struggled to claim pensions in the face of evidentiary obstacles and personal scrutiny. Brimmer exposes and examines the numerous attempts by the federal government to exclude black women from receiving the federal pensions that they had been promised. Her analyses illustrate the complexities of social policy and law administration and the interconnectedness of race, gender, and class formation. Expanding on previous analyses of pension records, Brimmer offers an interpretive framework of emancipation and the freedom narrative that places black women at the forefront of demands for black citizenship.
Omari Averette-Phillips is a doctoral student in the department of history at UC Davis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.