Event Title

In the Hands of Its Mothers: Georgia Swift King, Temperance, and the Challenges of African American Progressivism

Presenter Information

Sarah Goldberg, Dickinson College

Location

Stern Center Great Room

Start Date

19-4-2018 5:45 PM

Description

While the activism of African American women within the temperance movement has largely been sidelined in the historiography of the American anti-liquor crusade, this work seeks to revalue the contributions of the female reformers of Black Atlanta from the end of Reconstruction through the first decade of the twentieth century. I have utilized extensive archival collections made possible through trips to view materials held at Spelman College, the American Baptist Historical Society, the Georgia State Archives, Auburn Avenue Research Library, Atlanta History Center, and Princeton University, as well as the extensive digital collections of Atlanta University, Frances Willard House Archives, and several historical newspaper repositories to uncover the voices of a forgotten generation of black female leadership that had previously been marginalized in mainstream historical narratives. From this diverse source base, I hope to unpack the nature of African American women’s participation and leadership within the temperance movement and ultimately uncover both the strategies and visions of progress that propelled their work in the context of a rising Atlanta.

Orienting my own work within the rich secondary source literature that has explored black clubwomen’s activities beyond the temperance cause as well as contemporary male-dominated debates over racial uplift, my research has sought to understand the role of the temperance movement within a broader landscape of black progressivism. As I have discovered the works of prominent leaders within the Atlanta context – especially Georgia Swift King, the state president of Georgia’s African American chapters of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union – I have investigated how these aspiring reformers sought to make their voices heard in world marked by both patriarchal and white supremacist oppression. Moreover, this narrative serves as an important case study for the broader phenomenon of empowered, racialized womanhood at the turn of the century. I argue that King’s movement belongs not only amongst the ranks of clubwomen but also within intellectual histories of racial uplift strategy that have previously been dominated by figures such as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. In presenting this “Forgotten Atlanta Compromise,” the thesis has sought to better understand the vision of progress articulated by African American female prohibitionists. While my thesis concludes with the tragic Race Riot of 1906, this research highlights not only a record of obstacles and repression but also a parallel narrative of creative strategic thinking, individual agency, and tireless resilience.

Thus while my research is rooted in a particular local context, it asks broader questions that challenge historians of the progressive era, as well as scholars of race and gender: How did aspiring reformers navigate their intersectional identities within these structural contexts, and how do the resourceful strategies they put forward provide insight into their experiences and ideologies? What can the impact of these methods tell us about the world they inhabited? I hope that The Forgotten Atlanta Compromise could contribute a unique historical vantage point on universal themes of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies across disciplines.

Presentation Type

Presentation

Comments

Advisor: Associate Professor Matthew Pinsker

This document is currently not available here.

COinS
 
Apr 19th, 5:45 PM

In the Hands of Its Mothers: Georgia Swift King, Temperance, and the Challenges of African American Progressivism

Stern Center Great Room

While the activism of African American women within the temperance movement has largely been sidelined in the historiography of the American anti-liquor crusade, this work seeks to revalue the contributions of the female reformers of Black Atlanta from the end of Reconstruction through the first decade of the twentieth century. I have utilized extensive archival collections made possible through trips to view materials held at Spelman College, the American Baptist Historical Society, the Georgia State Archives, Auburn Avenue Research Library, Atlanta History Center, and Princeton University, as well as the extensive digital collections of Atlanta University, Frances Willard House Archives, and several historical newspaper repositories to uncover the voices of a forgotten generation of black female leadership that had previously been marginalized in mainstream historical narratives. From this diverse source base, I hope to unpack the nature of African American women’s participation and leadership within the temperance movement and ultimately uncover both the strategies and visions of progress that propelled their work in the context of a rising Atlanta.

Orienting my own work within the rich secondary source literature that has explored black clubwomen’s activities beyond the temperance cause as well as contemporary male-dominated debates over racial uplift, my research has sought to understand the role of the temperance movement within a broader landscape of black progressivism. As I have discovered the works of prominent leaders within the Atlanta context – especially Georgia Swift King, the state president of Georgia’s African American chapters of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union – I have investigated how these aspiring reformers sought to make their voices heard in world marked by both patriarchal and white supremacist oppression. Moreover, this narrative serves as an important case study for the broader phenomenon of empowered, racialized womanhood at the turn of the century. I argue that King’s movement belongs not only amongst the ranks of clubwomen but also within intellectual histories of racial uplift strategy that have previously been dominated by figures such as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. In presenting this “Forgotten Atlanta Compromise,” the thesis has sought to better understand the vision of progress articulated by African American female prohibitionists. While my thesis concludes with the tragic Race Riot of 1906, this research highlights not only a record of obstacles and repression but also a parallel narrative of creative strategic thinking, individual agency, and tireless resilience.

Thus while my research is rooted in a particular local context, it asks broader questions that challenge historians of the progressive era, as well as scholars of race and gender: How did aspiring reformers navigate their intersectional identities within these structural contexts, and how do the resourceful strategies they put forward provide insight into their experiences and ideologies? What can the impact of these methods tell us about the world they inhabited? I hope that The Forgotten Atlanta Compromise could contribute a unique historical vantage point on universal themes of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies across disciplines.