Solving the Boy Problem

Angela Hornsby-Gutting

in Black Manhood and Community Building in North Carolina, 1900–1930

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print April 2009 | ISBN: 9780813032931
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813039404 | DOI:
Solving the Boy Problem

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This chapter examines how black men groomed black boys into industrious and respectable men. While histories of African American life under Jim Crow have revealed in great detail the rhetoric and strategies black women used to enhance the morality and respectability of young black girls, less attention has been paid to the collective and similar efforts of both sexes to bolster the character and gender identity of boys. Indigenous religious, educational, and social movements spearheaded by black men aimed to relieve the “boy problem.” The Baptist State Sunday School Convention, schools such as the Mary Potter School in Oxford, North Carolina, and the Young Men's Institute sought to tend to boys defined as drifting. Such boys were considered passive and malleable. While drifting boys had the potential to be shaped into respectable men, in an unsavory environment, they could also turn bad. To fend off this consequence, black men offered boys wholesome diversions, counseled temperance in thought and behavior, and instructed them in how to lead virtuous and manly lives. Part of this project of masculinization sought to reinforce black boys' fidelity to domestic concerns. Men's work in public institutions addressed private issues as men such as George Shaw, principal of the Mary Potter School, helped his male students overcome broken home environments. Men like George Shaw believed that both men and women shared the responsibility for crafting wholesome domestic spaces.

Keywords: black men; black boys; gender identity; character; George Shaw

Chapter.  17977 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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