Crescent City Girls

The Lives of Young Black Women in Segregated New Orleans

By LaKisha Michelle Simmons

282 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 21 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2280-4
    Published: July 2015
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-2281-1
    Published: May 2015

Gender and American Culture

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Awards & distinctions

2016 Julia Cherry Spruill Prize, Southern Association of Women Historians

Honorable Mention, 2016 Letitia Woods Brown Prize, Association for Black Women Historians

What was it like to grow up black and female in the segregated South? To answer this question, LaKisha Simmons blends social history and cultural studies, recreating children’s streets and neighborhoods within Jim Crow New Orleans and offering a rare look into black girls’ personal lives. Simmons argues that these children faced the difficult task of adhering to middle-class expectations of purity and respectability even as they encountered the daily realities of Jim Crow violence, which included interracial sexual aggression, street harassment, and presumptions of black girls' impurity.

Simmons makes use of oral histories, the black and white press, social workers' reports, police reports, girls' fiction writing, and photography to tell the stories of individual girls: some from poor, working-class families; some from middle-class, "respectable" families; and some caught in the Jim Crow judicial system. These voices come together to create a group biography of ordinary girls living in an extraordinary time, girls who did not intend to make history but whose stories transform our understanding of both segregation and childhood.

About the Author

LaKisha Michelle Simmons is assistant professor of history and women's studies at the University of Michigan.
For more information about LaKisha Michelle Simmons, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

“Breaks meaningful new ground and serves as a model for future studies in African American and gender history.”--Journal of American History

“Highly recommended, as it intelligently includes voices entirely lost in most academic literature and . . . will be vital to those studying gender, youth, and urban histories.”--American Historical Review

“Addresses many of the themes scholars and others consider when they think of New Orleans. Entertainment districts, Mardi Gras balls and parades, the power of Catholicism, the importance of schools, the complexity of definitions of race and the power of racial segregation are all crucial to Crescent City Girls.”--Reading the South

“A significant new contribution to southern history, African American history, and gender studies that belongs in every academic library and should receive serious consideration by public libraries.”--Choice

“Readers are introduced to the interior lives of black girls in a city shaped by complex color lines, racial identities, and demands on what girlhood was supposed to mean.”--Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth

“Gives its readers the opportunity to explore New Orleans as black girls may have experienced it. . . . Demonstrate[s] the ways that consideration of black girls’ experience provides richer and more nuanced historical narratives. . . . Provide[s] important context and foundation for the conceptions of black girlhood that we have inherited.”--Public Books

Multimedia & Links

Follow the author on Twitter @ProfLSimmons.