What was it like to grow up black and female in the segregated
South? To answer this question, LaKisha Simmons blends social
history and cultural studies, recreating children's streets and
neighborhoods within Jim Crow New Orleans and offering a rare look
into black girls' personal lives. Simmons argues that these
children faced the difficult task of adhering to middle-class
expectations of purity and respectability even as they encountered
the daily realities of Jim Crow violence, which included
interracial sexual aggression, street harassment, and presumptions
of black girls' impurity.
Simmons makes use of oral histories, the black and white press,
social workers' reports, police reports, girls' fiction writing,
and photography to tell the stories of individual girls: some from
poor, working-class families; some from middle-class, "respectable"
families; and some caught in the Jim Crow judicial system. These
voices come together to create a group biography of ordinary girls
living in an extraordinary time, girls who did not intend to make
history but whose stories transform our understanding of both
segregation and childhood.