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Shrill Hurrahs

Women, Gender, and Racial Violence in South Carolina, 1865-1900

Kate Côté Gillin

Publication Year: 2013

In Shrill Hurrahs, Kate Gillin presents a new perspective on gender roles and racial violence in South Carolina during Reconstruction and the decades after the 1876 election of Wade Hampton as governor. In the aftermath of the Civil War, southerners struggled to either adapt or resist changes to their way of life. Gillin accurately perceives racial violence as an attempt by white southern men to reassert their masculinity, weakened by the war and emancipation, and as an attempt by white southern women to preserve their antebellum privileges. As she reevaluates relationships between genders, Gillin also explores relations within the female gender. She has demonstrated that white women often exacerbated racial and gender violence alongside men, even when other white women were victims of that violence. Through the nineteenth century, few bridges of sisterhood were built between black and white women. Black women asserted their rights as mothers, wives, and independent free women in the postwar years, while white women often opposed these assertions of black female autonomy. Ironically even black women participated in acts of intimidation and racial violence in an attempt to safeguard their rights. In the turmoil of an era that extinguished slavery and redefined black citizenship, race, not gender, often determined the relationships that black and white women displayed in the defeated South. By canvassing and documenting numerous incidents of racial violence, from lynching of black men to assaults on white women, Gillin proposes a new view of postwar South Carolina. Tensions grew over controversies including the struggle for land and labor, black politicization, the creation of the Ku Klux Klan, the election of 1876, and the rise of lynching. Gillin addresses these issues and more as she focusses on black women’s asserted independence and white women’s role in racial violence. Despite the white women’s reactionary activism, the powerful presence of black women and their bravery in the face of white violence reshaped southern gender roles forever.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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p. vii-vii

List of Illustrations

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p. viii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I wish to thank the two advisors who guided my graduate work: Helen Campbell Walker and Scott Reynolds Nelson. I am indebted to Professor Walker for her early influence on my studies, particularly for exposing me to the expansive range of literature that occupied her office floor. I am also deeply appreciative of the time and energy Professor Nelson spent reading and critiquing my work. Thank...

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pp. 1-11

In January 1871 members of the York County, South Carolina, Klan attacked the home of a local white woman named Skates. After a scuffle they pinned her to the ground, opened her upended legs, and poured a steaming brew of tar and lime into her vagina. They then spread the excess over her body and threatened to return if she did not leave the area within three days. Moments earlier Skates ...

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1. Land, Labor, and Violence

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pp. 12-30

Antebellum white South Carolinians used ideals of masculinity and femininity as yardsticks of worth for the members of their society. Those who qualified were among the wealthiest members, slaves were their antithesis, and poorer whites fell somewhere in between. These socially constructed paradigms were not inflexible, but they were often rigidly enforced. The basic definition of manhood...

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2. Black Politics and Violence

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pp. 31-52

Conflicts over land and labor helped reshape gender roles and led to racial violence in post–Civil War South Carolina, but other forces were at work as well. The politicization of the black community enraged and terrified white South Carolinians. A politically active black community in South Carolina violated not only long-standing southern racial traditions, but also the gendered...

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3. Getting Organized: The Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina

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pp. 53-79

Early in “radical” Reconstruction, southerners took their rage and made more structured attempts to intimidate and punish blacks for the impudence of acting on their civil rights. The most widespread of these early efforts was the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan emerged in Tennessee in 1865 or 1866 and spread quickly throughout the former Confederate states. Its diverse membership shared a single...

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4. Sin and Redemption: The Election of 1876

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pp. 80-104

On November 7, 1876, Mary Gayle Aiken wrote in her journal, “Election Day[,] mostly bright and cold.” A day later she commented, “cold[,] good news of the election[,] party at Miss Harper.” By the fifteenth she was—for Mary—nearly buoyant: “still cloudy[,] Hampton certainly elected.” Mary Aiken devoted most...

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5. Strange Fruit Hanging from the Palmetto Tree: Lynching in South Carolina

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pp. 105-125

The 1876 “redemption” of South Carolina brought the white, native-born men of the state back to the fore of political power. Having won the governor’s seat, the state legislature, and assurances from the federal government that noninterference was their new official policy, the victors set about restoring the control they had once had over most areas of life. The federal government’s removal...

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pp. 126-132

The Civil War laid waste to gender roles as South Carolinians understood them. Men were defeated, women had become more independent, and blacks were free and empowered. The foundations of white manhood—the ability to protect virtuous white womanhood, the domination of emasculated black men, and the right to the bodies of black women—no longer existed as they once had. White...


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pp. 133-150


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pp. 151-158


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pp. 159-170

About the Author

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p. 171-171

E-ISBN-13: 9781611172928
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611172911

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2013