Last night I spoke with Betty Jean Owens’s grandson, Amonte Martin. He and I talked over the past decade–first when my Journal of American History article came out and since my book was released in 2010. We chatted about history, family and especially the health and well-being of his grandmother, Betty Jean Owens, who was
Just when we thought there couldn’t possibly be anything left to uncover about the civil rights movement, Danielle McGuire finds a new facet of that endlessly prismatic struggle at the core of our national identity. By reinterpreting black liberation through the lens of organized resistance to white male sexual aggression against African-American women, McGuire ingeniously upends the white race’s ultimate rationale for its violent subjugation of blacks—imputed black male sexual aggression against white women. It is an original premise, and At the Dark End of the Street delivers on it with scholarly authority and narrative polish.
Following the lead of pioneers like Darlene Clark Hine, Danielle McGuire details the all too ignored tactic of rape of black women in the everyday practice of southern white supremacy. Just as important, she plots resistance against this outrage as an integral facet of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. This book is as essential as its history is infuriating.
This gripping story changes the history books, giving us a revised Rosa Parks and a new civil rights story. You can’t write a general U.S. history without altering crucial sentences because of McGuire’s work. Masterfully narrated, At the Dark End of the Street presents a deep civil rights movement with women at the center, a narrative as poignant, painful and complicated as our own lives.
At the Dark End of the Street is one of those rare studies that makes a well-known story seem startlingly new. Anyone who thinks he knows the history of the modern civil rights movement needs to read this terrifying, illuminating book.
McGuire’s “new history” shines fresh light upon the germinal role of black women in the birth and development of the civil rights movement.
McGuire’s provocative narrative forces readers to rethink what they know about that pivotal moment in U.S. history: its time frame, its actors, its legacy.