AT THE DARK END OF THE STREET - Danielle McGuire - an Incredible Book!

AT THE DARK END OF THE STREET: Black Women, Rape and Resistance - a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power by Danielle L McGuire, is an incredible book.

There are several important themes that are explained with many details in this book.   White men seizing Black women and girls often using guns, knives or other weapons on the street was common.   Also common was the "trick".   "I need a babysitter - often a teenager being assaulted and dumped in the country after she got in the car of her supposed employer.   It didn't matter what the Black people did.  The results were similar.


The men were "having consensual sex" or "it never happened".   Often the police or other authorities were part of the assault.  There nearly always was no prosecution of the rapists.   In the few cases that there were arrests, usually the assailants were released without being charged.   When cases went to trial, white male only juries did not convict the criminals.

Meanwhile "the story of the Souths" was of the purported rapes of "innocent white women" by sex crazy Black men.   Clearly all Black men did nothing besides assaulting white women.   In some instances white women coerced their (usually young) Black employees to have sex with them.   When their affairs were discovered, the Black men were charged with rape.   In other cases consensual inter-racial relationships when discovered resulted in rape charges, frequently resulting in mandatory death sentences for the Black men.

There are plenty of incredibly horrible things that this book documents in great detail.

'The simple fact of the conviction was too much for some whites, who felt that sending four white men to jail for raping a black woman upset the entire foundation of white dominion.  Many believed the guilty verdict was the result of a "Communist-inspired" NAACP conspiracy, which would ultimately lead to "miscegenation."  Letters to Judge Walker featured a host of common fears and racist stereotypes of black men and women.  One man reminded the judge that a conviction "would play into the hands of the Warren Court, the NAACP, and all other radical enemies of the South ...even though the nigger wench probably had been with a dozen men before." ' (p.151-2)

It is ironic that a rape case involving a black woman and four white men would conjure up images of the black brute chasing white women with the intent to mongrelize the white race.  The Tallahassee case attests to the persistence of such images decades after Reconstruction, when the mythological incubus took flight, justifying mob violence and a reign of terror throughout the South.  To be sure, anxieties about the black beast rapist and fears of "miscegenation" conveniently surfaced when white men feared losing their monopoly on power.' (p.152-3) 

"For generations," Belfrage argued, whites had been crossing the color line to indulge in what African Americans called "nighttime integration."  Belfrage dismissed arguments against "race mixing" and the "mongrelization of the white race" among opponents of civil rights, since "the principle was one-sided depending upon the color of the man involved."   "It's two late for the white man to start worrying about integration," she said, quoting an African-American woman, "because (he) has already mongrelized the white race and the black one too.  The only thing (he) hasn't done, " she argued, "is claim (his) amalgamation," Belfrage said, "were everywhere and those of us who got up early met the non infrequent sight of white men driving out of the Negro neighborhood at dawn."

Belfrage's stark analysis of and witness to white men's appetite for "nighttime integration" while feigning disgust for it during the day captured the long history of the racial and sexual subjugation of African Americansand the political maneuvering required to maintain the racial status quo.  Like Belfrage's analysis, black women's testimonies concerning the actualities of interracial sexual violence consistently challenged the white supremacist narrative of miscegenation.  One story from Grenada, a segregationist stronghold on the eastern edge of the Delta illustrates this perfectly.

When police charged L.J. Loden, a married white man, with raping a sixteen-year old African-American girl in the summer of 1960, it did not make headlines.  Loden's actions were not at all that unusual.  But when he was forced to stand trial and then convicted of rape on July 27, his world- and that of white men in the Delta - seemed upside down.  The victim testified that Loden picked her up on the pretense of hiring her as a housemaid, but when she got into his car, he attacked her.  She did not consent, she said at the trial, but actively "resisted his advances."  She testified that she struggled to escape and repeated stabbed him with a penknife during the assault.  When a jury of twelve white men delivered a guilty verdict without recommending mercy, Loden was, by default, sentence to death.

The ruling could have had profound implications throughout the state - no white man had ever been sentenced to death for raping a black woman in Mississippi, or in the South for that matter.   Between 1940 and 1965, only ten white men were convicted of raping black women or girls in Mississippi despite the fact that it happened regularly.   .... Ten cases scattered over fifteen years (note appears to be 25 years, not fifteen years) and hundreds of miles hardly qualified as justice for a crime that happened as routinely as white-on-black rape.

A death sentence in the Loden case would have fundamentally reoordered the infrastructure of white supremacy that had been in place since slavery and shattered the unspoken rule that reserved the state's electric chair for black men.  No Mississippi white man, certainly not Circuit Jude Henry Lee Rogers, was going to set that precedent.  Rogers reasoned that the jurors "did not realize that the 'guilty as charged' verdict made execution mandatory" and insisted they "modify (their) verdict"  

As instructed, the white jurors changed their verdict and recommended mercy for Loden.  He was finally  sentenced to life in prison with the possibility for parole in ten years.  In the end, it was both an incredible victory and a stunning loss.  It would take an additional five years before Mississippi sentenced a white man guilty of raping a Black teenager, to life in prison without parole.  And never, not once, would a white man pay with his life for raping a black woman.'  (p. 170-172)

The appeal to whites' baser instincts and fears about sex and race, indicates how desperate the diehards had become.  It also underscored the importance of sex and sexualized violence to the maintenance of white supremacy.  They no longer smeared civil rights activists as mere Communists or outside agitators;  now they were purely sex fiends, intense on spreading a culture of depravity through the country. (p.174-5)

By riding around with a black man after dark, Hoover (J. Edgar Hoover, head of the F.B.I.) argued, she was outside the bounds of white womanhood.  Liuzzo, he said had "indications of needle marks in her arms wehre she had been taking dope."  And, he added, she had been "sitting very, very close to the Negro in the car;  it had the appearance of a necking party."  Hoover then instructed staffers to "leak his speculations to  Klan informants," who in turn sent them to their press contacts.   The media blitz successfully changed the subject from FBI complicity in a killing to questions about Liuzzo's morality and fitness as a mother. ... Murphy's defense relied upon denouncing Liuzzo as a "white nigger" and repeated  innuendos suggesting she and Moten "were linked in a sexual relationship".  It did not seem to matter to either Murphy or the jury that the state toxicologist, Dr. Paul Shoffelt, found absolutely "no evidence of recent sexual relations" while he performed Liuzzo's autopsy. ...

The Klan made no effort to hide its presence at the trial.  Klansmen strutted around the courtroom as if they owned it.   Robert Shelton, the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama, weaved through the aisles, shaking hands and chatting with white spectators.  He advised the defendants, offered himself up for news interviews, and disparaged Liuzzo mercilessly.  Liuzo was not a "mother of five lovely children and a community work,"  he said to a reporter;  she was a "fat slob with crud that looked like rust all over her body." Worse, he added, she was frequently "bra-less."  He also assured anyone who would listen that he had eyewitnesses who "saw Liuzzo behaving like a whore."  "Klonsel" Murphy argued that "acquittal is certain."  Integration, he said to the journalist William Bradford Huie, "breaks every moral law God wrote ... All I need to use is the fact that Mrs. Liuzzo was in the car with a nigger man and she wore no underpants." ..."When J. Edgar Hoover fanned the flames of these ruors ino order to protect his own secrets, he did not just "blacken" her character; he treated her the way white men had historically treated black women. (p.186-7)


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