Tera Hunter follows African-American working women from their newfound optimism and hope at the end of the Civil War to their struggles as free domestic laborers in the homes of their former master. We witness their drive as they build neighborhoods and networks and their energy as they enjoy leisure hours in dance halls and clubs. We learn of their militance and the way they resisted efforts to keep them economically depressed and medically victimized. Finally, we see the despair and defeat provoked by Jim Crow laws and segregation and how they spurred large numbers of black laboring women to migrate north.
"Answering bells is played out": slavery and the Civil War -- Reconstruction and the meanings of freedom -- Working-class neighborhoods and everyday life -- "Washing amazons" and organized protests -- The "color line" gives way to the "color wall" -- Survival and social welfare in the age of Jim Crow -- "Wholesome" and "hurtful" amusements -- "Dancing and carousing the night away" -- Tuberculosis as the "Negro servants' disease" -- "Looking for a free state to live in."
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