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Professor Mary-Elizabeth Murphy publishes Jim Crow Capital

Associate Professor of History Mary-Elizabeth Murphy has published her first book, Jim Crow Capital: Women and Black Freedom Struggles in Washington, D.C., 1920–1945 (University of North Carolina Press, 2018). In this book, Dr. Murphy tells the story of how African American women in D.C. transformed civil rights politics in their freedom struggles between 1920 and 1945. Even though no resident of the nation's capital could vote, black women seized on their conspicuous location to testify in Congress, lobby politicians, and stage protests to secure racial justice, both in Washington and across the nation. Women crafted a broad vision of citizenship rights that put economic justice, physical safety, and legal equality at the forefront of their political campaigns. Black women's civil rights tactics and victories in Washington, D.C., shaped the national postwar black freedom struggle in ways that still resonate today.

A picture of the cover of Jim Crow Capital.
A picture of the cover of Jim Crow Capital.


The book has been praised by early reviewers. Lisa G. Materson, of the University of California, Davis, writes that “Murphy's excellent book makes a valuable contribution to the history of the black freedom struggle. Through meticulous research, she deepens our understanding of the strategies that African American women employed to mobilize against racism locally and nationally.” Chris Myers Asch, co-author of Chocolate City: Race & Democracy in the Nation's Capital, writes, “Mary-Elizabeth Murphy’s nuanced, ground-breaking study shines light on the oft-overlooked roles that black women played in Washington, D.C.’s early twentieth century freedom struggles. Murphy shows how black women in the nation’s capital, despite lacking the ballot, waged local and national campaigns for political rights, economic justice, and an end to race-based violence. This book is an invaluable and long overdue contribution to the burgeoning field of D.C. history.”

Dr. Murphy joined the Department of History and Philosophy in 2013 and received tenure and promotion this year. She teaches classes in the history of the United States, including courses in women’s history, African-American history, urban history, and the history of sexuality, as well as courses in historical research and writing. She will deliver a public lecture based on her book on February 21.

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