>A review 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 the Rise of Black Power

>Before Christmas, I was anxious to read another book on my new Amazon Kindle. I came across Danielle McGuire’s At the Dark End of the Street, which recounts the systematic rape/torture/sexual abuse committed by white men on black women. It also documents how the Civil Rights Movement got it start as committed to protecting the sanctity of black womanhood.

In an often graphic, eye opening prose, McGuire recalls the most heinous rapes of black women. Many of the rapes she recounts usually start out with a white man driving to a black woman’s home and luring her into his car with the promise of a job. Some of which are gang rapes, which as many as five white men force a black woman into a vehicle, drive her to a deserted area and take advantage of her numerous times.

At the Dark End of the Street also traces the early activism of Rosa Parks, then an investigator for the Montgomery, Ala., NAACP, and how the brutal gang rape of Recy Taylor (shown below in newspaper clipping with her family) in Abbeville, Ala., in 1944 forced the systemic degradation of black women by white men into the regional spotlight. The book also contradicts the idea that Rosa Parks was a meek woman who had no previous ties to fighting the injustice of black women and shows how black male activists used Mrs. Parks’ “clean” image as the perfect poster child in their efforts to fight racial discrimination.

The book also gives readers an glimpse into the past and documents how black women were the backbone of the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and other protests, recounts how segregationists adamantly fought back against the black uprising and exposes some landmark cases in which white men were finally brought to justice after raping black women.

The book also recounts how early black male Civil Rights leaders, including Ralph Abernathy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and a slew of others, originally began their quest for justice in the name of protecting black women from the savagery of white men.

At the Dark End of the Street gives readers a sense of what it truly was like for a black woman growing up under the oppressive Jim Crow system. De jure segregation and the “thingification” of black women are placed in a new historical context that demonstrated black women did not own our own bodies until the post Reconstruction era laws of segregation were overturned. At the Dark End of the Street also exemplifies how black women were the original feminists: our grandmothers and great-grandmothers led the cause to transform rape from a crime about sex to one that’s about power and control long before the white feminist movement gained traction.

To be sure, this book is not for those who are not interested in — or are in the denial about — the sorid, often overlooked, history of sexualized violence committed on black women at the hands of white men. It’s not for those who have no interest in how rape was routinely used as a mechanism to keep black women living in a cycle of fear.

Controversial and straight forward, At the Dark End of the Street is will surely have people discussing the legacy of the Civil Rights movement and the women who fearlessly stood up against the segregationist machine to reclaim their bodies as their own.