"'Can Woman Do This Work?' The Discourse of Racial Uplift,"

by Shirley Wilson Logan

Chapter 7 from We Are Coming: The Persuasive Discourse of Nineteenth Century Black Women, by Shirley Wilson Logan. (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press), 1999, 152-178. 

1999 by the Board of Trustees, Southern Illinois University

"We would prescribe: homes - better homes, clean homes, pure homes; schools - better schools; more culture; more thrift; and work in large doses; put the patient at once on this treatment and continue through life. Can woman do this work? She can; and she must do her part, and her part is by no means small."

-Lucy Laney, "The Burden of the Educated Colored Woman" 1899


     The late 1880s saw a marked deterioration in the status of blacks throughout the South, a resurgence of mob violence, and repression of civil rights.   Out of fear, economic competition, frustration, and the drive to control came the numerous provisions that made this a low point in American history. The Supreme Court's 1883 declaration that the civil rights bill was unconstitutional spawned legislation that attempted to ban practically all activities that would bring black and white people into close proximity: living, riding, drinking, marrying, playing sports - including checkers in Birmingham, Alabama - going to school, and dying; even prisons and asylums were segregated. 

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August 1999