This article focuses on three memoirs of the civil rights movement published roughly thirty years after the events described. Unlike feminist biography, on the one hand, and oral history, on the other hand, self-initiated accounts allow us to examine the range of narrative strategies chosen by black, female participant-witnesses to describe traumatic aspects of a movement that exposed them to varying degrees of physical, psychological, and sexual violence. I argue that memoirs by Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, Melba Pattillo Beals, and Endesha Ida Mae Holland are significant not only because they situate familiar movement milestones within the intimate context of "ordinary" women's lives, but also because they challenge the disembodied and triumphal story of the civil rights movement that has dominated American popular memory. As rich repositories of source material and as histories in their own right, these memoirs and others like them deserve considerably more scholarly attention.


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pp. 84-107
Launched on MUSE
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