Women-In-Action’s Brand of Biracial Activism: The Politics of Race, Gender, and Class in 1960s-1970s Durham

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2012-10-24

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Abstract

In the popular narrative of the civil rights movement in the United States, the role of women often becomes minimized or overlooked altogether; yet women played a critical part in engaging racial issues in their communities throughout the movement. This essay seeks to illuminate women’s contributions to the civil rights narrative in Durham, North Carolina, through the lens of the biracial organization Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes. The majority of the research comes from the organization’s chapter records—personal correspondences, newspaper clippings, press releases, and other primary documents. Based on these and other sources’ accounts of the activities and demographics of Women-In-Action, this essay explores the complex interplay between race, gender, and class in civil-rights-era Durham. Although the group successfully forged a biracial alliance based on shared notions of womanhood and social activism, the class line ultimately proved more difficult to cross. The organization contributed in meaningful ways to easing racial tensions in Durham, yet their inability to foster true cross-class unity prevented deep engagement with issues of Durham’s lower class and came to define their particular brand of civil rights activism.

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Winner of the 2012 Middlesworth Award; Finalist for the 2012 Durden Prize

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Miller, Catherine (2012). Women-In-Action’s Brand of Biracial Activism: The Politics of Race, Gender, and Class in 1960s-1970s Durham. Course paper, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/5933.


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