Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents/Illustrations

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pp. vii-ix

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

This project began many years ago when I found a box of my grandparents’ letters from their courtship and early months of marriage. As a young history major, I was thrilled that my own family had participated in the historical events I studied in my courses. Since then,...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-12

In July 1937, James and Sarah Curwood had an argument. The young African Americans had recently celebrated their first anniversary. But marital bliss seemed elusive just then. Sarah’s new volunteer job at Boston’s South End Settlement House, as a researcher on the labor...

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1 FROM UPLIFT TO NEW NEGRO MARRIAGES: Changing Ideals of Sexuality and Activism in African American Marriages, 1890–1940

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pp. 13-51

The Curwoods found themselves in a marital relationship during a time of changing ideals about marriages. Although they often saw themselves engaged in a personal drama of love and intimacy, their experience took place against a backdrop of contending prescriptions...

2 NEW NEGRO HUSBANDS

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pp. 53-82

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3 NEW NEGRO WIVES

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pp. 83-107

Throughout the summer of 1937, James Curwood tried to convince Sarah to accept the role that he envisioned for her: a stay-at-home wife devoted to her husband’s comfort. In one particularly vivid version of his ideal, he wrote:...

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4 THE EVERYDAY CHALLENGES OF UPWARD MOBILITY: Class Identity and Married Couples

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pp. 109-138

The challenges of upward mobility for a person of any race are substantial. Acquiring an income, building wealth, and exhibiting the appropriate trappings of the comfortably well-to-do can take a lifetime of striving, or longer. For black Americans hoping to be a credit...

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5 LOVE AND TROUBLE IN INTERWAR MARRIAGES

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pp. 139-158

As the Curwoods experienced conflict over economic roles within their marriage, they also confronted the intimate and emotional tasks of maintaining a marital relationship. Their beliefs about romantic love and men’s and women’s roles—in terms of economics, power,...

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Epilogue

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pp. 159-163

Unfortunately, the Curwood couple did not find happier times. By the 1940s, their marriage was deteriorating. James still traveled and had affairs. Sarah was patiently developing her own career, slowly overcoming James’s resistance. As the 1940s wore on, the fault lines...

Notes

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pp. 165-183

Bibliography

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pp. 185-194

Index

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pp. 195-196