“At the Dark End” Casts New Light on Civil Rights Movement Roots

In this post, I’m plugging 1) what sounds like an exciting interview about the Civil Rights Movement and 2) WBAI, which needs your help.

On Thursday, March 10, 1:00-2:00 p.m., “Woman, Body, and Soul,” on WBAI 99.5 FM, will have a special program for anyone interested in the Civil Rights Movement. Special guest hosts Maretta Short and Fran Luck will interview Danielle L. McGuire, author of At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance—A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to Black Power.  This groundbreaking work offers a new perspective on the Civil Rights Movement and how it began—by putting front and center the struggle of Black communities against the routine and ritualistic rape of Southern Black women by white men.

The story begins in 1944 with the gang rape of Recy Taylor—forced into a car with six white men, all well known in the small town of Abbeville, Alabama. The case is nonetheless thrown out of court for “lack of evidence,” as was par for the course in the Southern white justice system. But the fight for justice didn’t stop there. Although her attackers had threatened to kill her if she told anybody, Recy Taylor and her network of supporters told everybody. When the NAACP heard about what had happened, they sent their “best organizer”—a young woman named Rosa Parks. McGuire characterizes Rosa Parks with a new, vibrant, and more militant identity and reveals her as one of a core of radical activists who cut their teeth on the fight for justice for Recy Taylor in the 1940s.
The network formed out of this fight wound up becoming the foundation of what would later become the Montgomery Bus Boycott—which was founded and organized by one of the most militant political organizations of the time: the Women’s Political Council. The WPC’s struggle put them on the same page as men in the fight for justice and equality—and sparked the beginning of the civil rights movement.

At the Dark End of the Street reveals how Southern white law makers blatantly refused to enforce their own laws when it came to white men who routinely sexually harassed, kidnapped, and gang raped Black women with impunity—while that same system and its terroristic extensions such as the Ku Klux Klan went into overkill when Black men were falsely accused of raping white women—as in the Scottsboro case. It shines new light on the workings of the sexual caste system and its function—to terrorize Black people into submission and reinforce Jim Crow. Most of all it shows how the persistence and organizing skills of people who had been humiliated and disenfranchised for centuries—and who had few resources—were able to mount a fight for justice that changed America and the world.

WBAI is listener-supported, noncommercial radio broadcasting to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. It is part of the Pacifica Radio Network. WBAI badly needs our financial support to continue broadcasting an alternative to the corporate media. Please consider going to www.wbai.org and contributing whatever amount you can to help keep alternative radio alive.