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Opportunity Denied

Limiting Black Women to Devalued Work

Enobong Hannah Branch

Publication Year: 2011

Blacks and Whites. Men and Women. Historically, each group has held very different types of jobs. The divide between these jobs was stark—clean or dirty, steady or inconsistent, skilled or unskilled. In such a rigidly segregated occupational landscape, race and gender radically limited labor opportunities, relegating Black women to the least desirable jobs. Opportunity Denied is the first comprehensive look at changes in race, gender, and women’s work across time, comparing the labor force experiences of Black women to White women, Black men and White men. Enobong Hannah Branch merges empirical data with rich historical detail, offering an original overview of the evolution of Black women’s work.

From free Black women in 1860 to Black women in 2008, the experience of discrimination in seeking and keeping a job has been determinedly constant. Branch focuses on occupational segregation before 1970 and situates the findings of contemporary studies in a broad historical context, illustrating how inequality can grow and become entrenched over time through the institution of work.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Contents

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pp. vii-

Figures

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pp. ix-x

Tables

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pp. xi-xii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xiv

Thank you does not seem like nearly enough to say to the many people and institutions that made this book possible. I owe a great debt to Hayward Derrick Horton, Karyn Loscocco, and Glenn Deane of the University at Albany–State University of New York for nurturing...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-7

From 1860 to 1960, Black women’s work and the experience of discrimination in seeking and keeping work was doggedly constant. The common phrase “you are what you do” was particularly true during this 100-year period when there was near-perfect matching...

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Chapter 1. Hierarchies of Preference at Work: The Need for an Intersectional Approach

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pp. 8-25

W.E.B. Du Bois proclaimed in 1903 that “the problem of the Twentieth century is the problem of the color line.”1 While this statement was prescient, Du Bois failed to fully understand the problem facing Black women. Although race played a central role...

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Chapter 2. As Good as Any Man: Black Women in Farm Labor

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pp. 26-48

Because slaves were brought to America to serve almost exclusively as agricultural laborers, there is a clear link between Black women’s work and farm labor. The use of Black women’s labor during slavery laid the foundation for their exploitation long after...

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Chapter 3. Excellent Servants: Domestic Service as Black Women’s Work

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pp. 49-70

While Black women were deemed suitable for farm labor because they were not considered real women, their concentration in domestic service was explicitly tied to the designation of household labor as the work of racial or ethnic women. The assumption that this...

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Chapter 4. Existing on the Industrial Fringe: Black Women in the Factory

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pp. 71-96

Although the majority of Black women remained mired in domestic service and farm labor through the mid-twentieth century, a significant number were able to leave the farm and ultimately the household to enter the world of factory work. Their transition,...

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Chapter 5. Your Blues Ain’t Nothing Like Mine: Race and Gender as Keys to Occupational Opportunity

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pp. 97-126

Labor market privilege is inherently relational. It confers “certain privileges on the individuals and groups that oppress or are able to benefit from the resultant inequalities” and is fundamental to all forms of social oppression.1 Racial oppression, for instance, is based on the relationship between White domination...

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Chapter 6. The Illusion of Progress: Black Women’s Work in the Post–Civil Rights Era

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pp. 127-153

After nearly a century of spotty occupational progress, the entire opportunity structure for Black women underwent a dramatic shift in the 1960s. In 1960, more than 60 percent of all employed Black women were in service work, and the vast majority, nearly 63 percent, worked in private households. One decade...

Appendix

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pp. 155-162

Notes

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pp. 163-181

Index

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pp. 183-190


E-ISBN-13: 9780813551975
E-ISBN-10: 0813551978
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813551227

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 51 tables and graphs
Publication Year: 2011