Claiming Union Widowhood: Race, Respectability, and Poverty in the Post-Emancipation South

Claiming Union Widowhood: Race, Respectability, and Poverty in the Post-Emancipation South

by Brandi Clay Brimmer


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In Claiming Union Widowhood, Brandi Clay Brimmer analyzes the US pension system from the perspective of poor black women during and after the Civil War. Reconstructing the grassroots pension network in New Bern, North Carolina, through a broad range of historical sources, she outlines how the mothers, wives, and widows of black Union soldiers struggled to claim pensions in the face of evidentiary obstacles and personal scrutiny. Brimmer exposes and examines the numerous attempts by the federal government to exclude black women from receiving the federal pensions that they had been promised. Her analyses illustrate the complexities of social policy and law administration and the interconnectedness of race, gender, and class formation. Expanding on previous analyses of pension records, Brimmer offers an interpretive framework of emancipation and the freedom narrative that places black women at the forefront of demands for black citizenship.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781478011323
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication date: 12/11/2020
Pages: 322
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.67(d)

About the Author

Brandi Clay Brimmer is Associate Professor of History at Spelman College.

Table of Contents

Cast of Principal Characters  ix
Acknowledgments  xi
Introduction  1
Part I. A People and a Place
1. Black Life and Labor in New Bern, North Carolina, 1850–1865  23
2. The Black Community in New Bern, 1865–1920  46
Part II. Encountering the State
3. Her Claim is Lawful and Just: Black Women's Petitions for Survivors' Benefits  77
4. Black Women, Claims Agents, and the Pension Network  101
5. Encounters with the State: Black Women and Special Examiners  123
6. Marriage and the Expansion of the Pension System in 1890  144
7. Black Women and Suspensions for "Open and Notorious Cohabitation"  163
8. The Personal Consequences of Union Widowhood  184
Conclusion  205
Notes  217
Bibliography  277
Index  299

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