By Jo Reger
It seems like a hard sell to convince academics to spend some of their “free” time in the summer reading books that center on the sexual assault of women and children. Yet, I find myself attempting this because of my certainty in quality of these two books; Danielle McGuire’s beautifully written At The Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance (2010, Random House) and Nancy Whittier’s incredibly intelligent The Politics of Child Sexual Abuse: Emotions, Social Movements and the State (2009, Oxford). Note: I have met Danielle McGuire and I am friends with my graduate school colleague Nancy Whittier. So while I have connected with these authors personally, my goal here is to focus on the intellectual and emotional connection I have with each of their books (knowing them personally is just an added benefit).
So why should you read these books? First, taken together they underscore the importance and often overlooked issue of sexual assault in the study of movements. McGuire, a historian, retells the story of the origins of the civil rights movements through the epidemic of rapes of black women. Starting with anti-rape activism of Rosa Parks, McGuire tells a compelling and sometimes horrifyingly detailed story of the rapes, assaults, and murders of black women in a time when it was “open season” for white men to go “hunting.” Starting (and ending) with the story of Recy Taylor, McGuire carefully traces these cases and the grassroots organizing that sprung up around them, eventually coalescing in an infrastructure that carried the movement forward. Continue reading