Clara-Sophie Höhn M.A.


"Invisible Revolutionaries" - Weiße Südstaaten-Aktivistinnen in der US-amerikanischen Bürgerrechtsbewegung in den 1950er und 1960er Jahren


My Ph.D. thesis aims to locate white southern female activists visible in the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) as well as highlight their contributions to the successes of the social movement. The white activist Joan Browning stated that she and her fellow white female activists were “invisible revolutionaries” in both contemporary civil rights historiography and in collective memory. Despite their immediate involvement, the experiences and influence of those women receive only meagre attention and remain therefore an understudied field of scientific research. However, women in general played an essential and even ground breaking role for the movement. They mobilised the masses, recruited new allies and members, initiated, organised, and led numerous projects. There was a range of white southern women, who fought vehemently for racial equality of their fellow black citizens in the 1950s and 1960s. Thus, by concentrating on a cohort of white female activists born around 1940, my study contributes to closing this particular research gap.

By focussing on intersectionality, established by Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, the project relies on an innovative methodological approach. The integrative analytical concept examines how social categories, in my case race, whiteness, gender, class, culture, and religion, overlap as well as intersect and therefore influence systems of oppression, discrimination, domination and/or privilege. The anti-racist activism of white southern women has to be continually analysed regarding the interdependent connections between these social categories. They highlight how and why white women’s participation in the CRM was structured as it was, as well as when and why they could not escape the privileges of the social status as “white women”. Therefore, intersectionality is not only the theoretical and methodological base of my research but also highlights the relevance of my thesis for the civil rights historiography.