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Stormy Weather

Middle-Class African American Marriages between the Two World Wars

Anastasia C. Curwood

Publication Year: 2010

In this manuscript, Curwood explores middle-class African American marriages during the New Negro period. Within the intimate relationship, each spouse brought his or her own social and cultural status and aspirations; broader racial issues in their public lives intensified marriage tensions over class identity, gender roles, and sexual norms. To get at the relationship between marital ideals, stereotypes, and couples’ realties during this time, Curwood uses a wide range of source material, including formal and private writings by well-known figures such as E. Franklin Frazier and Jean Toomer and a vast log of letters between her maternal grandparents, Sarah and James Curwood (not treated in any way, however, as a family narrative). Examining the social history of gender roles and sexual fulfillment of African American marriage in the interwar period, Curwood also suggests how these debates carry forward to current discussions about and perceptions of black marriage in America.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

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


E-ISBN-13: 9781469603872
E-ISBN-10: 146960387X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807834343
Print-ISBN-10: 0807834343

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2010