Middle Class Black Women
The racial and class, gender inequality was very rampant during and before 19th century in the America. The struggle of Black women in America has become a significant historical aspect of America in terms of development of the country’s nationhood. In principle, gender ideology has influenced the lives and dreams of individual people, shaped popular culture, and created or maintained social institutions.
Despite the draconian imposition of Jim Crow that saw the withdrawal of federal protection for Black Americans’ civil and political liberties, Black African Americans emerged successful in the development of the social force that saw them liberated in the long run. The other barrier that they faced is based on their small number (Barney, 2006). It is significant to note that African Americans were just a fraction of the African American population.
Before Jim Crow came to North Carolina in the late 1890s, “many members of the Charlotte’s black ‘better class’ worked actively with their white counterparts in local and state-wide prohibition campaigns” (Barney, 2006, p.188). The effort for prohibition became critically important to Black American women since it offered them an opportunity to make alliances with white prohibitionists, so as to reaffirm their commitment to standards of discipline and propriety. Such development meant that they were able to distance themselves from the black lower order women as they worked with their white counterparts. However as time went by, they were able to disprove racist ideas and to assert their position as middle class people.
These women resembled their white counterparts both in necessity that they worked as well as occupation they held. The successful wealth accumulation that these groups of women accumulated as they occupied certain occupations, combined with heavy investment in real estate made them more powerful and socially recognizable than some of the white middle class. Janette Greenwood’s study of Charlotte, North Carolina in 1994 entitled “Bittersweet Legacy” investigated why the small class communities, especially Black American women became prosperous and respectable. According to his explanation, the term middle class connoted a group of women with signifant economic, political and social power to effectively influence many aspect of the society.
In what is normally referred to as “aristocratic of color” these women differed significantly from other women as they were less concerned with skin tones (Hine & Jenkins, 2001). They had been born in the last decade of slavery and befitted from the educational opportunities of Reconstruction. In many circumstances, they were taught in schools of northern white missionaries and embraced the values of self-discipline and morality that they adopted from their teachers. As people who embraced the value of education, perhaps more than their white counterparts, these women lived their lives similar to that of white middle class women in the last half of the 19th century (O’Brien & Newman, 2009). Considering the level of discrimination they received as women gender as well black minority, their parents took advantage of the Reconstruction period and made sure that their children received the best education available.
With the encouragement from leaders like Isaiah Montgomery and Benjamin Singleton, the Black American women organized themselves within their communities so as to acquire and possess their own property like land, instead of running away from the reality. Frederick Douglas on the other hand encouraged Blacks, especially black women, to fight for their civil rights instead of engaging in the economic and social isolation that had characterized their lifestyle over the years (O’Brien & Newman, 2009). More importantly, Black women subscribed to a range of values and codes that were highly and widely embraced by their white middle class. In summery they embraced virtues like humility, gentility, respectability, self-discipline, virtue, thrift, and morality. These virtues guided the Black women’s daily lives hence defining their own niche despite their double minority status of women gender and Black community.