A hundred years ago in the Jim Crow South, thousands of African Americans were going to court. One of the reasons they went was to get a divorce. How did black people deal with a court system that was famous for its racial hostility and staffed entirely by white men? How did African American women handle ending a marriage at a time when so much depended on proving black families were stable and respectable? What can these cases tell us about black life between the Civil War and the Great Migration? Dylan Penningroth, Associate Professor of History at Northwestern University and a former Fellow at the Newberry Library, answers these questions about family relations, the rise of the independent black church, and notions of respectability and race among African Americans.
Recorded Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at The Newberry Library.