African American Women and Race Relations: 1890-1920

Thursday, February 13, 2014
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm (EST) Enter Classroom Enter Forum


Sharon Harley
Associate Professor of African American Studies/History and
Affiliate Faculty Member, Women's Studies,
University of Maryland, College Park
National Humanities Center Fellow

About the Seminar

The period from 1890 to 1920 is often characterized as the low point of African American history. During those thirty years white supremacists established Jim Crow in the South. African Americans were disenfranchised, isolated and demeaned through segregations, and terrorized by lynching and other forms of violence. Yet during that dark time not only did African Americans keep hope alive, they forged new political weapons and promoted a new consciousness that became foundations for later success in the struggle for civil rights. African American women were central to these efforts.

What cultural and political roles did they play during this period? How did they confront Jim Crow? How did their work relate to that of such men as Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois? This seminar will explore those questions and others by examining the fiction, dramas, speeches, journalism, and poems of such writers as Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Ida B. Wells, and Meta Warrick. It will probe the divergent roles and occasionally contradictory racial ideology of African American women during one of the most tumultuous moments in U.S. history.

Presentation PDF

Download the presentation PDF.

Online Evaluation

Online evaluation for seminar participants.

Technical Help

Visit our technical specifications page for information about the seminar forum and classroom.

View a brief introduction to AIC online seminars.

Assigned Readings

  1. A Colored Woman in a White World, Mary Church Terrell, 1968, (excerpt).
  2. “What it Means to Be Colored in the Capital of the United States,” Mary Church Terrell.
  3. “We are All Bound Up Together,” Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.
  4. "A Darky Damsel Obtains a Verdict for Damages against the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad: What it Cost to Put a Colored School Teacher in a Smoking Car-Verdict for $500," The Memphie Appeal Avalanche, 1884.
  5. “Strange Fruit,” Billie Holiday, (video).
  6. “The National Association of Colored Women,” Josephine Silone-Yates, 1904.
  7. "The Anti-Lynching Crusaders," The Crisis, November, 1922.
  8. “Remembering English Friends,” Ida Wells Barnett, Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells.

Suggested Additional Resources

    Freedom's Story: Teaching African American Literature and History. TeacherServe©. National Humanities Center.

  1. '"Somewhere” in the Nadir of African American History, 1890-1920,' Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore.
  2. "Racial Uplift Ideology in the Era of 'the Negro Problem.'" Kevin K. Gaines.
  3. "The New Negro and the Black Image: From Booker T. Washington to Alain Locke," Henry Louis Gates, Jr..

Seminar Recording