Late 19th and 20th century
What was it like to grow up as a Southern Black girl under Jim Crow laws that legalized racial segregations in the Southern United States? Witnessing state-sponsored racism and white supremacy, Black girls came to develop and understand their identity under several interwinted forces: gender, race, place, and justice.
Southern Black girls in this period were seen constantly negotiating two main influences. One was the racialized violence from Jim Crow South. Black girls often found themselves unable to protect their bodies from the violence of white men. At the same time, Black girls were told to be pure, virtuous, and dignified as a way to gain respectability. Black girls’ constant negotiation was revealed in their girlhood. For example, they were not expected to show rebelliousness as an adolescent girl. Instead, they had to learn to be respectable, protect their puriness, and defend themselves against racial violence. Growing up in Jim Crow South, many black girls were motivated to fight for their rights to their own bodies and agency.