Graduation Year

2003

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

History

Major Professor

Greene, Christina

Co-Major Professor

Ingalls, Robert

Keywords

Jim Crow era, Civil rights activism, Women's history, African-American history, Tampa history

Abstract

Blanche Armwood was a remarkable black woman activist, from Tampa, Florida, who devoted her life to improving the political, social, and economic status of blacks in the Jim Crow South. Local historians have kept Armwood's legacy alive by describing her achievements and by emphasizing her dedication to the African-American population during one of the most racist periods in American history. In their efforts to understand Armwood's career, scholars depend upon race as the primary category of analysis and focus mainly on the external forces that defined Armwood's world. They argue that she became resigned to her lot in life as a black woman, and consequently chose to accommodate rather than challenge the Southern racial system. This thesis offers an alternative interpretation of Armwood's activism.

It argues that Blanche Armwood rejected the white supremacist ideology of the Jim Crow South and insisted on equal opportunity and political equality for all African-Americans. This study examines how social variables such as race, gender, and class intersected in her life, shaping her world view and leadership style. It explores how Armwood's experiences as a southern, middle-class, black woman affected her racial ideology. Armwood left behind a powerful legacy of resistance against the second-class status that white America imposed on blacks during the nadir in African-American history. She contested the white South's perception of African-American women. In a world that associated them with Mammy and Jezebel stereotypes, Armwood insisted that African-American women deserved the same respect that society accorded white women.

Armwood fought for political equality, demanding that black women should have the right to vote and participate in the civic process as women and as African-Americans. In addition, she believed that the federal government had a responsibility to protect all its citizens and that every American was entitled to equal treatment before the law. Finally, Armwoodʹs racial uplift work revealed her faith in the cornerstone of the American creed, its promise of equal opportunity. She provided some blacks with the chance to move away from poverty and illiteracy to become respectable middle-class Americans.

Share

COinS