“At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance” by Danielle L McGuire

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March 2nd, 1955: Claudette Colvin, a schoolgirl, is arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus and saying, “I’m just as good as any white person.”

October 21st, 1955: Mary Louise Smith, an eighteen year old housemaid, is arrested for a similar offence.

December 1st, 1955: Rosa Parks does the same thing – and her name goes down in history. (And no, she was not tired and her feet didn’t really hurt.)

So when does Martin Luther King, Jr. come in?

This book takes a fresh look at the history of the Civil Rights Movement. It is sure to change the reader’s perspective as well. The case histories, the crimes, the testimonies, and the nature of the trials, everything shocks – and rocks. We get to know the real Rosa Parks, how and by whom the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 was organized, and how the Civil Rights movement was rooted in the long and painful history of African American women’s struggle against sexual violence. The horrifying gang rape of Recy Taylor in Abeville, Alabama in 1944, the miscarriage of justice that occurred again and again during the Jim Crow era, when white men systematically abused black women and went unpunished, the determined resistance offered by black women and men, and many other dark secrets of American history are outlined in the book.

The author reveals the names of many hitherto unknown persons who had spearheaded the Civil Rights movement and spent decades resisting white supremacy – names that have been largely erased from the historical narrative. One is left wondering whether Martin Luther King, Jr. was merely lucky to find himself at the right place at the right time. Jo Ann Robinson played a crucial role in organizing the bus boycott, but nobody ever heard of her. That’s why the book asks to be read.

Overall Assessment: Bold and controversial. A must-read for historians, women and everyone born in America.

At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance–A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power
Author: Danielle L McGuire
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: October 2011

Reviewer: Pushpa Kurup lives in Trivandrum, India and works in the IT sector.

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