Our Separate Ways

Women and the Black Freedom Movement in Durham, North Carolina

By Christina Greene

384 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 16 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5600-0
    Published: April 2005
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-7637-4
    Published: March 2006

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Awards & distinctions

2006 Julia Cherry Spruill Prize, Southern Association of Women Historians

In an in-depth community study of women in the civil rights movement, Christina Greene examines how several generations of black and white women, low-income as well as more affluent, shaped the struggle for black freedom in Durham, North Carolina. In the city long known as "the capital of the black middle class," Greene finds that, in fact, low-income African American women were the sustaining force for change.

Greene demonstrates that women activists frequently were more organized, more militant, and more numerous than their male counterparts. They brought new approaches and strategies to protest, leadership, and racial politics. Arguing that race was not automatically a unifying force, Greene sheds new light on the class and gender fault lines within Durham's black community. While middle-class black leaders cautiously negotiated with whites in the boardroom, low-income black women were coordinating direct action in hair salons and neighborhood meetings.

Greene's analysis challenges scholars and activists to rethink the contours of grassroots activism in the struggle for racial and economic justice in postwar America. She provides fresh insight into the changing nature of southern white liberalism and interracial alliances, the desegregation of schools and public accommodations, and the battle to end employment discrimination and urban poverty.

About the Author

Christina Greene is associate professor of history in the Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lived in Durham for twelve years, where she directed the Duke-University of North Carolina Center for Research on Women and worked for the Institute for Southern Studies.
For more information about Christina Greene, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

"A rich and compelling portrait. . . . An intriguing example of what work on the civil rights movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s would look like."--Southern Historian

"A valuable treatment of women's participation in the black freedom movement. . . . Greene's writing is clear and often compelling as she chronicles the efforts of local community women who worked across the color line to achieve the goals of cooperation and human dignity. . . . [Greene's] examination of the strategies and tactics utilized by less affluent women sheds new light on how African American communities effectively challenged segregation and racial injustice."--American Historical Review

"Greene has written a history that runs much deeper than a 'women were there, too' story. I know of no other work that so consistently details the importance of women's organizational networks to civil rights activism. A significant contribution indeed."--Chana Kai Lee, University of Georgia