Why Testimony? 

Danielle L. McGuire, in her book, At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance—A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power (2010)details how beginning in the 1940’s, a significant number of brave African-American women began giving testimony of their experiences as victims of sexual violence, even as they were simultaneously denied countless human and legal rights. The book provides us with insight into how black women's protesting against and resisting their ritualistic sexual victimization at the hands of white men helped establish the beginnings of the American Civil Rights movement. The courage of these women inspired us to name our project, “The Testimony Project, Washington, D.C.” The following are selected quotes from McGuire's book.

“Throughout the twentieth century, black women persisted in telling their stories, frequently cited in local and national NAACP reports. Their testimonies spilled out in letters to the Justice Department and appeared on the front pages of the nation’s leading black newspapers. Black women regularly denounced their sexual misuse. By deploying their voices as weapons in the wars against white supremacy, whether in the church, the courtroom, or in congressional hearings, African-American women loudly resisted what Martin Luther King, Jr., called the ‘thingification’ of their humanity. Decades before radical feminists in the women’s movement urged rape survivors to ‘speak out,’ African-American women’s public protests galvanized local, national, and even international outrage and sparked larger campaigns for racial justice and human dignity” (McGuire 2010: Kindle locations 232-238 7806)
— Danielle L. McGuire, At The Dark End of Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance--A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power
“For African-American women who were raped or sexually harassed in the segregated South, or anywhere their bodies were not their own, speaking out was downright dangerous. As a result, testimony must be seen as a form of direct action and radical protest against the racial and sexual status quo. Indeed, the willingness of African-American women to testify about the crimes committed against their personhood took enormous courage and strength and indicated that even decades before the women’s movement, they understood that the ‘personal is political’” (McGuire 2010: Kindle location 4914 of 7806, Chapter 8)
— Danielle L. McGuire, At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance--A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power

We invite you to consider giving testimony as a way of protesting the deeply harmful and destructive ways in which our society treats victims-survivors and rape culture.

“Failure in the courts did not stop black women from speaking out, decades before the women’s movement. These testimonies helped bring attention to the issue of sexual violence and often ignited local campaigns for equal justice and civil rights” (McGuire 2010: Kindle Locations 871-872 of 7806)
— Danielle. L. McGuire, (2010) At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance--A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power

Sources

McGuire, Danielle L. 2010. At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance--A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power. Kindle Edition. New York, NY: Vintage, Random House. https://www.amazon.com/At-Dark-End-Street-Resistance/dp/0307389243

 

 

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Creative Commons License