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Bodies That Work

African American Women’s Corporeal Activism in Progressive America

by Tami Miyatsu (Author)
©2020 Monographs XVI, 188 Pages

Summary

Bodies That Work describes the redefinition of the invisible, fragmented, and commodified African American female body. In Progressive America, black women began to use their bodies in new ways and ventured into professions in which they had typically not been represented. They were bodies that worked—that labored, functioned, and achieved in collective empowerment and that overcame racial, ethnic, and class divides and grappled with the ideas and values of political, financial, and intellectual leadership, thereby dispelling the ingrained stereotypes of womanhood associated with slavery. Based on archival materials and historical documents, Bodies That Work examines four women who reinterpreted and reorganized the historically divided black female body and positioned it within the body politic: Sarah Breedlove Walker, or Madam C.J. Walker (1867–1919), an entrepreneur; Emma Azalia Hackley (1867–1922), an opera singer; Meta Warrick Fuller (1877–1968), a sculptor; and Josephine Baker (1906–1975), an international performer. Each reshaped a different part of the female body: the hair (Walker), the womb and hands (Fuller), the vocal cords (Hackley), and the torso (Baker), all of which had been denigrated during slavery and which continued to be devalued by white patriarchy in their time. Alleviating racial and gender prejudices through their work, these women provided alternative images of black womanhood. The book’s focus on individual body parts inspires new insights within race and gender studies by visualizing the processes by which women lost/gained autonomy, aspiration, and leadership and demonstrating how the black female body was made (in)visible in the body politic.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgments
  • Author’s Note
  • Introduction
  • 1 The Grassroots Network of African American Women: Madam C. J. Walker’s Hair Care Empire
  • Walker’s Transatlantic Vision of Hair Culture
  • Hair Care Tailored to Black Women’s Minds and Bodies
  • Advertisements Promising Beauty and Prosperity
  • Agents in Walker’s Grassroots Network
  • Conclusion
  • 2 Vocal Cords Vibrating against Black Codes: The Socio-Musical Activism of E. Azalia Hackley
  • Spirituals as Religiously Inspired Folk Songs
  • Lost Tongues and Coded Songs
  • Spirituals in Progressive America
  • Hackley’s Spiritual Mobilization
  • Conclusion
  • 3 Mutilated Womb, Violated Motherhood: Mary Turner and Meta Warrick Fuller’s Sculptural Protest
  • The Doom of the Womb in American Slavery
  • Slave Mothers’ Resilience against White Patriarchy
  • Maternalism and Anti-Lynching in Progressive America
  • Mary Turner and the Maternal Protest in Art
  • Conclusion
  • 4 Performing Savagery and Civility: The Subversive Nudity of Josephine Baker
  • Quasi-Slavery in Progressive America
  • American and French Attitudes toward Female Nudity
  • Baker’s (De)Colonizing Body in French Cinema
  • Baker’s Nudity for the American Body Politic
  • Conclusion
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index

cover

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

About the author

Tami Miyatsu is a professor of American literature at Kansai Gaidai University, Japan. She earned a PhD in literature from the University of Tsukuba. She has received MEXT/ JSPS KAKENHI (Grants-in-Aid for Scientifi c Research) for studies on women’s slave narratives and the black women’s club movement.

About the book

Bodies That Work describes the redefinition of the invisible, fragmented, and commodified African American female body. In Progressive America, black women began to use their bodies in new ways and ventured into professions in which they had typically not been represented. They were bodies that worked—that labored, functioned, and achieved in collective empowerment and that overcame racial, ethnic, and class divides and grappled with the ideas and values of political, financial, and intellectual leadership, thereby dispelling the ingrained stereotypes of womanhood associated with slavery. Based on archival materials and historical documents, Bodies That Work examines four women who reinterpreted and reorganized the historically divided black female body and positioned it within the body politic: Sarah Breedlove Walker, or Madam C.J. Walker (1867–1919), an entrepreneur; Emma Azalia Hackley (1867–1922), an opera singer; Meta Warrick Fuller (1877–1968), a sculptor; and Josephine Baker (1906–1975), an international performer. Each reshaped a different part of the female body: the hair (Walker), the womb (Fuller), the vocal cords (Hackley), and the torso (Baker), all of which had been denigrated during slavery and which continued to be devalued by white patriarchy in their time. Alleviating racial and gender prejudices through their work, these women provided alternative images of black womanhood. The book’s focus on individual body parts inspires new insights within race and gender studies by visualizing the processes by which women lost/gained autonomy, aspiration, and leadership and demonstrating how the black female body was made (in)visible in the body politic.

This eBook can be cited

This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.

Details

Pages
XVI, 188
Year
2020
ISBN (PDF)
9781433167249
ISBN (ePUB)
9781433167256
ISBN (MOBI)
9781433167263
ISBN (Hardcover)
9781433167232
Language
English
Publication date
2020 (April)
Published
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XVI, 188 pp., 10 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Tami Miyatsu (Author)

Tami Miyatsu is a professor of American literature at Kansai Gaidai University, Japan. She earned a PhD from the University of Tsukuba. She has received MEXT/JSPS KAKENHI (Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research) for studies on women’s slave narratives and the black women’s club movement.

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Title: Bodies That Work