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Mary Lee Brady, Ph.D.

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Robert Moses
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The 20th Century Impact on African American Women

The 20th century in America ushered into existence a vast array of religious generated charities and public rule making bodies (often in conflict with African-American leadership) that very much helped shape societal attitudes and behaviors as to who was deserving and recruited for what benefits and privileges. 

Voices of White women joined in a chorus demanding changes in society. Feminist leaders not only demanded the right for female suffrage but also viewed matters such as widespread alcoholism and prostitution as an affront to a moral code good for all. 

Yet these same women were more often than not silent about the plight of African-Americans unable to vote or even avoid being lynched on a weekly basis in the America they loved. And, few ever voiced concern about the near slave wages being paid to Black domestic workers for long hours away from their own families and children.  Her view of social work was very much shaped by women of means and methods focused on uplifting families to better nurture, inspire, motivate and educate individual members. 

She admired the organizational abilities of women like Mrs. John D. Rockefeller to target and recruit the needy to achieve economic advancement necessary for building functional communities, and as an advocate for the social work espoused by Mary McLeod Bethune, she was critical of Black Church leaders for failures to generate similar organized efforts in African-American neighborhoods. (See Menu Below -- Women's Civic Works)

As a enlightened and educated African-American in the pre-depression years (1929-1939),... Nancy observed and read about the genius of change agents in Europe, like Albert Speer of Germany and Robert Moses of the United States.  She marveled that such men viewed displacement of millions of poor people from their places of family and community affiliations as good architecture and planning.  Nancy Lee's view was that for the first half of the 20th century (changed only because of the race-based horrors of World War II), powerful forces in America were determined that African-Americans should not rise up above being hewers of wood and carriers of water.

Nancy Lee observed, opposed and predicted the combination of ruthless post-war slum clearance initiatives, federal funded highway construction, housing and urban development were all about men of means like Robert Moses making money for themselves and their allies to the detriment of the poor. 

The big difference was that folks stopped acknowledging racism, and instead offered other reasons for their behavior dispersing African-Americans 

(See Menu Below entitled: Robert Moses) 

Nancy, as a social historian believed that in the first half of the 20th century, it was the heritage, tradition and values of White scholars like Stanley Elkins, Daniel Patrick Moniyhan and Nathan Glazier to utterly ignore any and all scholarly works by men and women of African heritage, even those with legitimate doctorate degrees like Dr. Benjamin Mayes of Morehouse College (mentor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King). 

Most White news and book publishers never did publish  works by Black scholars.  In this light of race superior selves, White scholars such as Stanley Elkins were able imagined that women like Nancy Lee did not exist or, lacked any validated or unbiased knowledge of ex-slaves. 

She perceived men with the heritage and backgrounds of Elkins had audacity to imagine that 19th century abolitionists were not men and women of Messianic values; but rather radicals that should have sought compromises with men who held four million human beings in slavery and denigration. Such writings are not about scholarship but rather a desire to whitewash his own family heritage in slavery and the slave trade; or even worse, doing nothing to end it or bind up the wounds of those who suffered.

In her lifetime, like most educated African-Americans of her generation, she intimately knew many ex-slaves; and, understood that data used by Daniel Elkins was wrong in describing African-Americans as docile and dependent upon him and his kind of reasoning. 

And, herein mattered most the Messianic Christian beliefs that Nancy and her kind believed in.  Typical of scholars the Elkins literature search and readings as a student had included writings by men writing about topics of interest to him.

He mistakenly assumed that experiences of impoverished and denigrated Jews before and after the horrors of World War I and II were a basis for understanding African-American trauma "up from slavery, ignorance, decadence and a host other holocausts like many years of lynching and re-enslavement of Black men on chain gang work projects throughout the south. 

Home ] Up ] Robert Moses ] Daniel Patrick Moynihan ] Stanley M. Elkins ] Nathan Glazer ] Color Purple ]

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Last modified: 12/29/16