Though women’s roles in the black freedom struggle remain under-acknowledged, scholars continue to make their importance clear. In her new book, Jim Crow Capital: Women and Black Freedom Struggles in Washington, DC, 1920-1945
(University of North Carolina Press, 2018), Mary-Elizabeth Murphy
(Associate Professor of History at Eastern Michigan University) examines black women’s activism in Washington D.C. during the interwar period. The nation’s capital has long been an important location for influencing national politics. Black women recognized this fact and shaped their activism accordingly. Consequently, the city is a particularly rich site in which to study women’s political efforts and to see how these activists tackled discrimination on both the local and national levels. Murphy's book shows the interwar years were an important time for fighting discrimination in politics, government, employment, and by law enforcement.
In this episode of the podcast, Murphy discusses this rich history. She discusses the importance of Washington D.C. as a site for black women’s activism, explains successes and failures of the period, and the precedents it set. The conversation highlights the book's themes of class, gender, and police violence. She also discusses some of the lessons this history provides for today’s politics. Finally, Murphy explains her source base and the challenges and rewards of her time in the archives.
Christine Lamberson is an Associate Professor of History at Angelo State University. Her research and teaching focuses on 20th century U.S. political and cultural history. She’s currently working on a book manuscript about the role of violence in shaping U.S. political culture in the 1960s and 1970s. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.