The meaning of race in the antebellum southern United States was
anchored in the racial exclusivity of slavery (coded as black) and
full citizenship (coded as white as well as male). These
traditional definitions of race were radically disrupted after
emancipation, when citizenship was granted to all persons born in
the United States and suffrage was extended to all men. Hannah
Rosen persuasively argues that in this critical moment of
Reconstruction, contests over the future meaning of race were often
fought on the terrain of gender.
Sexual violence--specifically, white-on-black rape--emerged as a
critical arena in postemancipation struggles over African American
citizenship. Analyzing the testimony of rape survivors, Rosen finds
that white men often staged elaborate attacks meant to enact prior
racial hierarchy. Through their testimony, black women defiantly
rejected such hierarchy and claimed their new and equal rights.
Rosen explains how heated debates over interracial marriage were
also attempts by whites to undermine African American men's demands
for suffrage and a voice in public affairs. By connecting histories
of rape and discourses of "social equality" with struggles over
citizenship, Rosen shows how gendered violence and gendered
rhetorics of race together produced a climate of terror for black
men and women seeking to exercise their new rights as citizens.
Linking political events at the city, state, and regional levels,
Rosen places gender and sexual violence at the heart of
understanding the reconsolidation of race and racism in the
postemancipation United States.