Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hicks, "Talk with You Like a Woman"

A recent H-Law review reminded me to spotlight Cheryl Hicks's prize-winning book Talk with You Like a Woman: African American Women, Justice, and Reform in New York, 1890-1935 (UNC Press, 2011). Hicks is an associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Here's an overview from the Press:
. . . Cheryl Hicks brings to light the voices and viewpoints of black working-class women, especially southern migrants, who were the subjects of urban and penal reform in early-twentieth-century New York. Hicks compares the ideals of racial uplift and reform programs of middle-class white and black activists to the experiences and perspectives of those whom they sought to protect and, often, control.
In need of support as they navigated the discriminatory labor and housing markets and contended with poverty, maternity, and domestic violence, black women instead found themselves subject to hostility from black leaders, urban reformers, and the police. Still, these black working-class women struggled to uphold their own standards of respectable womanhood. Through their actions as well as their words, they challenged prevailing views regarding black women and morality in urban America. Drawing on extensive archival research, Hicks explores the complexities of black working-class women's lives and illuminates the impact of racism and sexism on early-twentieth-century urban reform and criminal justice initiatives.
Cheryl D. Hicks (image credit)
And a blurb:
"This creative, cross-disciplinary book will make significant contributions to African American and women's history, as well as sociology and legal studies. Hicks brings a fresh perspective to under-researched topics and much-needed revision to long-held assumptions about the dynamics of class and moral reform issues among African Americans."
--Tera Hunter
Here's a snippet of the H-Law review, by Lisa Dorr:
Hicks uses the records of reformers and the criminal justice system to make her case, inviting criticism that the women she analyzes, because of their presence in reform institutions, are not representative of the experiences of the majority of African Americans in New York at the time. She counters this challenge by suggesting that the experiences of these women reflect the common dilemmas that working-class women faced. While winding up in prison might not have been the most common result, the details in the case files nonetheless put the lives of working-class black women under the microscope, giving us the fuller picture of the struggles, strategies, and strivings of these women.
Read on here.