Friday, May 25, 2012

deGregory Reviews Kelley, "Right to Ride"

Blair L. M. Kelley (credit)
Our friends at H-Law have posted a review of Blair L. M. Kelley, Right to Ride: Streetcar Boycotts and African American Citizenship in the Era of Plessy v. Ferguson (2010). The book is part of the University of North Carolina Press's John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture.

Reviewer Crystal A. deGregory offers this introduction to the book:
Right to Ride explores the interconnectedness of social status, gender, and skin color with such clarity that it is no surprise that the book earned the Association of Black Women Historians’ 2010 Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Book Award. Right to Ride’s achievement is especially impressive when one considers that its main contention--that “the age of ‘accommodation’ was simultaneously a time of resistance”--stands in direct opposition to decades-old historiography (p. 12).
Here's a bit more:
Other important dimensions of this work include its exploration of the critical roles African American women and community institutions played in initiating and sustaining black protest. Black men and women alike were aware of gender politics and often used them to their advantage. Because many of the arguments underpinning racism were centered on notions of protecting white womanhood, attacks on black womanhood “laid bare the irrationality of segregation” (p. 11). Even so, black women’s protest was not just limited to the public square. To challenge segregation, black women also used litigation, as well as their influence as community leaders. . . . In black communities, or the world-within-a-world, the problem of segregation was expansive enough for the employment of different tactics--such as litigation or economic boycotts--and for the popularity of divergent ideologies.
"[M]ost impressive" of all, writes deGregory, is the book's "successful reconstruction of the interrelationship of black protests against segregated streetcars in several cities [New Orleans, Richmond, and Savannah] over time."

The full review is here.