Women Behind the Hashtag

Two new books by LSU sociologist highlight black women’s leadership throughout social movements

BATON ROUGE – NFL player protests and the #BlackLivesMatter movement are a continuation of a historically grounded strategy to gain equality and justice developed by black Baptist women, according to LSU Department of Sociology and African & African American Studies Professor Lori Martin. In her new book, “Black Community Uplift and the Myth of the American Dream,” she provides historical context and analysis on these contemporary forms of protest grounded in a concept developed by women more than a century ago.

From the 1880s through the 1920s, black Baptist women led a powerful and defiant strategy to demand greater respect for black people, to enact racial uplift and to address social justice issues called the politics of respectability. The women gave lectures and participated in social justice organizations to fight against lynching, substandard housing and inequalities in the justice system and more. Martin frames the strategies applied by contemporary activists and athletes to raise awareness of the continued inequality in the U.S. for blacks and other people of color today within the context of the politics of respectability.

“The politics of respectability was and remains a powerful, defiant strategy developed, largely by black women, to transform black families and black communities, while also forcing America to see itself not as the model of justice, fairness and equality rather as a source of anti-black sentiments where private practices and policies produced consequences—the likes of which—the nation has yet to recover from,” Martin said.

By analyzing government documents, scholarly articles, newspapers and other historical records spanning a range of time periods, Martin quantitatively assesses the black community’s access to educational attainment, home ownership, self-employment and other indicators of the American Dream. She found that although individuals may obtain advanced educational degrees or prestigious occupations, the racial wealth gap persists in the U.S. due to institutional racism and structures.

She also explores the history of black athletes as activists to assess the ways in which the American Dream is a myth even for black professional athletes.

“The idea of an American Dream is often understood as the attainment of material success and acceptance into mainstream society and culture. The politics of respectability serves as a critique of the ideal pointing to the gaps between America as it is and America as it ought to be,” she said.

In a second book to be published in March titled, “Black Women as Leaders: Challenging and Transforming Society,” Martin raises awareness around black women’s leadership roles throughout some of the most significant social movements from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement.

“Black women were on the front lines of history engaged in any number of passive and active forms of resistance. The roles of black women as agents of social change engaged in the practice of leadership are misunderstood and understudied due in large part to a limited understanding of what constitutes a leader,” she writes.


Additional Links:

Black Community Uplift and the Myth of the American Dream: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498579155/Black-Community-Uplift-and-the-Myth-of-the-American-Dream

Black Women as Leaders: Challenging and Transforming Society: https://www.abc-clio.com/ABC-CLIOCorporate/product.aspx?pc=A5863C


Contact Alison Satake
LSU Media Relations