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Stu Levitan welcomes Danielle McGuire, author of the ground-breaking and award-winning book, 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. Danielle clicks on two criteria, as a double alum of the UW and a past presenter at the Wisconsin Book Festival.
It was a little before midnight on September 3, 1944. A 25-yo black woman named Recy Taylor, and two friends were walking home from church in rural Abbeville Alabama when a carload of six white boys with guns & knives kidnapped her, blindfolded her and drove her to a wooded area outside of town, where they raped her repeatedly for more than 3 hours.
Because Recy Taylor’s family and friends knew local law enforcement would not take the matter seriously, they contacted the NAACP office in Montgomery, Local president E. D. Nixon assigned his best investigator, a woman who had once lived in Abbeville before commencing a career in black activism. Her name was Rosa Parks.
What Rosa Parks did before and after she got to Abbeville, and the overwhelming impact of sexualized violence on the civil rights movement is the business that occupies Danielle McGuire in this important book. As it has occupied her since she got her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Afro-American Studies here in the late nineties before getting her Ph D from Rutgers.
Danielle McGuire is a native of Janesville Wisconsin who’s been thinking and writing about the role of race in modern America since she read Jonathan Kozol’s book Savage Inequalities as a high school junior in 1991. Her work has had an impact. At the Dark End of the Street won the Frederick Jackson Turner Award from the Organization of American Historians and the Lillian Smith Award from the Southern Regional Council. Her Journal of American History essay, “It was Like We Were All Raped: Sexualized Violence, Community Mobilization and the African American Freedom Struggle,” won the A. Elizabeth Taylor Prize for best essay in southern women’s history and was reprinted in the Best Essays in American History. Perhaps most important, her work led to a formal apology from the State of Alabama to Recy Taylor and her family.
Danielle is the editor with John Dittmer of Freedom Rights: New Perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement. She is currently at work on a book about the 1967 murder of three young black men in the Algiers Motel in Detroit which, like At The Dark End of the Street, will be published by Knopf. She lives with her husband, two children and a lhasa-poo in metro Detroit.
I had the pleasure of talking with Danielle McGuire on an earlier version of this show, and it is a new pleasure to welcome her now to Madison BookBeat.