Pride and Shame: Black Women as Symbols of the “Middle Class”

Maxine Leeds Craig

in Ain't I a Beauty Queen?

Published in print June 2002 | ISBN: 9780195152623
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849345 | DOI:
Pride and Shame: Black Women as Symbols of the “Middle Class”

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This chapter considers how the rearticulation of race began to incorporate an antagonistic stance toward a vaguely defined middle class. Women figured prominently as symbols in the ensuing rhetorical conflicts. Across time periods and cultures, men have employed images of women in political rhetoric. Prior to the 1970s, race leaders called on black women to represent the dignity of the race through a particularly middle-class mode of deportment. With the rise of the Black Power Movement, that female style of presentation-of-self began to represent the despised “bourgeois black woman.” A new generation of black leaders used a gendered rhetoric of racial pride to excoriate “bourgeois” black women for “acting” white. The chapter discusses the burden of being a living symbol. Black women, who were expected to embody rapidly changing reformulations of racial pride, were in difficult positions.

Keywords: race rearticulation; black women; bourgeois; middle class; racial pride

Chapter.  6452 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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