Winner, 2007 Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Book Prize
This political history of middle-class African American women during World War I focuses on their patriotic activity and social work. Nearly 200,000 African American men joined the Allied forces in France. At home, black clubwomen raised more than $125 million in wartime donations and assembled “comfort kits” for black soldiers, with chocolate, cigarettes, socks, a bible, and writing materials. Given the hostile racial climate of the day, why did black women make considerable financial contributions to the American and Allied war effort? Brown argues that black women approached the war from the nexus of the private sphere of home and family and the public sphere of community and labor activism. Their activism supported their communities and was fueled by a personal attachment to black soldiers and black families. Private Politics and Public Voices follows their lives after the war, when they carried their debates about race relations into public political activism.