Sexual violence--specifically, white-on-black rape--emerged as a critical arena in postemancipation struggles over African American citizenship. Analyzing the testimony of rape survivors, Rosen finds that white men often staged elaborate attacks meant to enact prior racial hierarchy. Through their testimony, black women defiantly rejected such hierarchy and claimed their new and equal rights. Rosen explains how heated debates over interracial marriage were also attempts by whites to undermine African American men's demands for suffrage and a voice in public affairs. By connecting histories of rape and discourses of "social equality" with struggles over citizenship, Rosen shows how gendered violence and gendered rhetorics of race together produced a climate of terror for black men and women seeking to exercise their new rights as citizens. Linking political events at the city, state, and regional levels, Rosen places gender and sexual violence at the heart of understanding the reconsolidation of race and racism in the postemancipation United States.
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Terror in the Heart of Freedom is an outstanding book. It places gender and sexuality at the center of the story of emancipation and its aftermath in the decade following the Civil War. No other historian has analyzed the meaning of sexual violence for black women and men and for southern men, black and white, with the depth and breadth offered by Rosen. This book will transform the way American historians teach about Reconstruction and the way women's historians teach about gender and sexual violence.Nancy A. Hewitt, Rutgers University