In Writing through Jane Crow, Ayesha Hardison examines African American literature and its representation of black women during the pivotal but frequently overlooked decades of the 1940s and 1950s. At the height of Jim Crow racial segregation—a time of transition between the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts movement and between World War II and the modern civil rights movement—black writers also addressed the effects of "Jane Crow," the interconnected racial, gender, and sexual oppression that black women experienced. Hardison maps the contours of this literary moment with the understudied works of well-known writers like Gwendolyn Brooks, Zora Neale Hurston, Ann Petry, and Richard Wright as well as the writings of neglected figures like Curtis Lucas, Pauli Murray, and Era Bell Thompson.
By shifting her focus from the canonical works of male writers who dominated the period, the author recovers the work of black women writers. Hardison shows how their texts anticipated the renaissance of black women’s writing in later decades and initiates new conversations on the representation of women in texts by black male writers. She draws on a rich collection of memoirs, music, etiquette guides, and comics to further reveal the texture and tensions of the era.
A 2014 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title
Each chapter positions relevant texts within a historical and cultural framework but also develops intertextual connections to fellow writers. The result is a richer, more complex understanding of this period's literary landscape that includes not only its overt racism but also its often-overlooked gendered and sexual dynamics....Higly recommended.
Ayesha Hardison’s book is ambitious, interdisciplinary, and masterfully crafted. It will productively and substantially move the scholarly conversation in social realism, mid-twentieth-century American arts and letters, and African American women’s literary history. Hardison skillfully balances close readings of texts with consideration of broader social and historical contexts that enrich her analysis.
Ayesha K. Hardison is Associate Professor of English at Ohio University.